It is great news that a campaign by teachers and unions has been successful in highlighting the need for pupils, teachers and school workers to be better protected from the potentially deadly asbestos found in a number of schools.
It was reported this week that trade unionists were celebrating after a campaign by teachers pressed the government into agreeing to publish a new guide for school heads. I sincerely hope the campaign by teachers has highlighted to the government the ongoing risks associated with asbestos and hope their role in minimising the risks posed by asbestos to pupils, teachers and society as a whole is now being taken seriously.
It is estimated that three-quarters of schools in the UK were built using asbestos. Asbestos that is not maintained appropriately poses serious health risks and exposure to it can lead to diseases including mesothelioma, which is a devastating and incurable cancer.
Shockingly it has been reported that the presence of asbestos in UK schools has been the cause of the deaths of 140 teachers alone from mesothelioma in the past ten years. In America it has been estimated that for every teacher who dies from mesothelioma there will be approximately nine pupil deaths. If this estimation is accurate, more than 1,200 pupils may have died as a result of exposure to asbestos here in the UK.
Although the use of asbestos was banned a long time ago the number of deaths across Europe due to mesothelioma is continuing to rise. This new guide for teachers is definitely a step in the right direction but there is so much more that needs to be done to raise awareness of the potential dangers of this deadly substance.