It was reported this week that three quarters of schools in the UK have asbestos in the buildings but some are unable to get rid of it because of disputes about who foots the bill.
The Guardian, which quotes an all-party Parliamentary group as describing the issue as a “time-bomb in our schools”, says more than 75% of school buildings contain asbestos and many – mostly the huge number built in the three decades after the second world war – are now coming to the end of their useful lives.
The newspaper quotes the Local Government Association as saying that disputes over asbestos removal from school buildings are holding up a significant number of projects.
Approached by Education Guardian, the Department for Education said that, despite a number of ongoing disputes, the cost of asbestos removal for school building projects was funded under the Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP). The local authorities said if that was the case, it needed to be made clear to contractors.
The all-party group on occupational health and safety says almost all the 14,000 schools built between 1945 and 1975 contain the material, along with most of those refurbished during that period.
And while some types of asbestos, if enclosed and well managed, do not pose a serious risk, the report says materials such as asbestos lagging, sprayed asbestos and asbestos insulating board, all of which can release dangerous fibres, are present in schools.
The all-party group quotes a report from the Medical Research Council, which estimates that even when a school building containing asbestos is in good condition, fibre levels are between five and 500 times those found outdoors. Children attending these schools are likely to inhale around three million of the fibres during their school lives, it says.
Despite this, a much delayed policy review published in March by the Department for Education quotes the Health and Safety Executive view that schools are a low-risk environment for asbestos.
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Eton Environmental Group already provides asbestos surveying and management services to schools and other educational institutions across the UK.