Lethal asbestos in half of your children’s schools

Islington's schools are not alone. Studies suggest that asbestos is present in more than 75% of schools nationwide. Pic: David Hawgood via Geograph.org.uk

Thousands of children are being taught in schools riddled with lethal asbestos, new figures reveal.

As many as 7,658 pupils at 29 different primary and secondary schools in the borough are learning in classrooms, some with the deadly substance just metres above their heads.

The council began removing asbestos materials from schools eight years ago, and a spokesman stressed the authority has “appropriate risk assessments and management actions in place”.

Inhalation of asbestos fibres over a long period can lead to lung cancer. Health and Safety Executive advice that says asbestos is “only a risk if you disturb or damage it and cause fibres to be released in to the air”.

The advice adds: “If asbestos containing materials are in good condition and in a position where they are not going to be disturbed or damaged then it is safer to leave then where they are and ensure that the risks are managed.”

The figures came to light after a Freedom of Information request was sent to Islington Council. A spokesman said: “We have a management system in place; each school has a management plan they are required to adhere to.

“They are supported by a dedicated asbestos officer who provides training, advice and assistance as required.”

Experts recommended Islington Council take action after they were commissioned to conduct an asbestos survey of schools in 2003.

Former council leader James Kempton said at the time: “The safety of pupils and staff is paramount. Safely resolving this situation to the satisfaction of parents and school staff is our highest priority.

“I’d like to reassure everyone that there is no immediate risk to health. The independent surveys carried out show the schools to be safe for teaching and other duties.”

Asbestos was a common building material up until the 1970s.  Many buildings, schools, offices and homes used asbestos for fire-proofing and insulation purposes.