'Asbestos is found in nearly half of local authority run primary schools, new figures show, leaving children at increased risk of developing cancer.
There are 5,196 state maintained primaries that contain asbestos out of a total of 11,217 in England, according to figures obtained under freedom of information requests.
Even low levels of exposure to asbestos fibres can cause both lung cancer, as well as cancer of the lining of the lung called mesothelioma.
Most victims die within 18 months of diagnosis, but it often does not appear until around 40 years after the person first breathes in the dust.
The lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is predicted to be about three and a half times greater for a child first exposed at age five compared to an adult first exposed at age 25 and about five times greater when compared to an adult first exposed at age 30, according to advice provided to the Government.
Kate Sweeney, a partner in personal injury at the law firm Stephensons Solicitors LLP, said that the primary school data is only the “tip of the ice berg” since local authorities do not hold information about academies and free schools, which are now the majority of schools in England.
Three quarters of schools contain asbestos, but the Health and Safety Executive say that it only presents a risk if it is disturbed or damaged, which risks fibres being released into the atmosphere.
According to the National Union of Teachers, 319 teachers have died from mesothelioma since 1980. It is estimated that for every teacher’s death, nine children will die, meaning over 100 people will die every year in the UK as a result of exposure when they were at school.
There is no statutory duty on schools to report their asbestos management, Ms Sweeney said, which means many turn a blind eye to the potential danger it poses.'
Read more: Asbestos found in nearly half of local authority run primary schools, new figures show
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