We are delighted to see that Michael Lees, Campaigner and one of the founders of Asbestos in Schools Group, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Michael’s wife Gina, who was a nursery school teacher, died of mesothelioma (an incurable form of cancer) aged 51. Her tragic death was a direct consequence of exposure to asbestos. Michael has fought tirelessly to raise awareness of asbestos in school buildings.
It is believed that of the thousands of schools in Britain more than 75% contain asbestos.
This danger was highlighted by the case of Dianne Willmore, who fought and won her case against Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council. Dianne developed mesothelioma caused as a consequence of her exposure to asbestos whilst she was a child at secondary school.
One seemingly trivial incident involved school bullies pushing up ceiling tiles and throwing blazers up to the ceiling void. The tiles contained asbestos.
Since 1980 more than 253 school teachers have died from mesothelioma. These statistics only include deaths up to age 75. Due to the long latency period of the disease, many of those who develop mesothelioma, only do so in later life. In addition these figures do not include caretakers, cooks and the many other support staff who work in schools.
Children may be more at risk of developing this deadly cancer, as it is thought that, as their bodies are still developing, their lungs may be more vulnerable.
This month also saw the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announce results of its asbestos in schools initiative. Of the 153 randomly selected non-local authority schools investigated, 44 received written advice and 20 were subject to enforcement action.
Sadly we also note the passing away of Carole Hagedorn, a modern languages teacher, who was forced to retire following her diagnosis of mesothelioma in 2008. Since then she campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos in our schools.
Given the unceasing body of evidence about the risks of asbestos in our schools, we believe that the Government should prioritise the removal of asbestos in all public buildings.
You can contact our dedicated asbestos disease team on Freephone 0800 614 722 or speak to Helen directly on 0161 238 5637.