School asbestos risk is ‘ticking time-bomb’

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Deadly asbestos poses no “immediate risk” Fife Council has assured, despite its presence in 154 schools and nurseries across the region.

The fireproofing material, widely used in buildings during the ‘60s, is known to cause the disease mesothelioma – a form of lung cancer – decades after exposure.

The risk associated with disturbing asbestos is well-established but campaigners believe staff and children’s safety could be compromised by merely pinning pictures on school walls, an act which they claim can release asbestos fibres into the air.

John Fearne, manager of Asbestos Action Tayside (AAT), told the Press the threat should be taken seriously.

He said: “There’s been a campaign in England to try and get asbestos removed from schools, and they mention pins in walls. A few years ago we submitted a freedom of information request to Fife Council asking what were the council was doing about it?

“We were told the authority was complying with reglations and that was it - but it’s time for Scotland to follow suit and embark on a staged removal of asbestos in schools.”

According to AAT, last year there were 240 cases of people in Scotland made ill by exposure to asbestos, approximately a fifth of those cases originated in Fife.

The Mail asked Fife Council to respond to claims that asbestos could pose a risk to pupils and staff.

Louise Playford, the council’s school estate service manager, said: “We know there is asbestos in many of our school buildings, as would be expected due to their age.

“The safety of pupils is always our top priority.

“It is important to stress that asbestos doesn’t pose an immediate risk, provided its location is known, it is in good condition, sealed or in a place where it can’t be damaged.”

Strict procedures were in place if work was required near asbestos - and areas containing asbestos were documented within the Asbestos Risk Register, she said.

“These are available at each property for staff, contractors, visitors and any authorised inspectorate and there are very strict protocols surrounding how these areas are managed.”

However Fraser Simpson, head of Industrial Disease at Digby Brown Solicitors, said:“It is disturbing to say the least that asbestos is still present in over 150 buildings in the region attended by thousands of children every day and where people go to work.

“Through our work with individuals and families of those affected by asbestos disease we see the devastating effects of exposure.

“The presence of asbestos in schools is an issue for local and national government to address.

“The local authority and Scottish Government will point to policies designed to protect those who may be in the vicinity of any construction or removal works involving asbestos. As long as asbestos remains undisturbed, there is no immediate risk to the public.

“However, as the buildings get older, the risk of the asbestos degrading increases. Also, if employees, members of the public, teachers and children are not aware of the presence of asbestos within the public buildings and schools which are occupied daily, then how can they guard against inadvertent disturbance?”

“Asbestos exposure is often thought of as a relic of our industrial past, associated with the dockyards and industries that were present in Fife and elsewhere.

“These figures show that this is far from the case. Asbestos is a public health threat to people of all ages today and one which needs to be urgently addressed, to help reduce the consequences of asbestos disease for future generations.”

A survey carried out by the National Union of Teachers in March 2017 showed less than 50 per cent of respondants knew of asbestos in their building.

Seventy five per cent of that number said it was present in locations accessible to staff and boisterous children, and a similar number had no awareness training

Sarah Lyons NUT spokesman said: “This survey reveals an appalling state of affairs and only serves to strengthen our case for the Government to commit to a long term strategy for the phased removal of asbestos from all our schools.

“Parents need to be reassured that asbestos is being safety managed in their child’s school and we just cannot be confident that this is the case in many of our schools.’

She added: “It’s scandalous that every year teachers and support staff are dying from mesothelioma because they have been exposed to asbestos in school.

“Children are at greater risk because of the long latency of mesothelioma.

“The Government must listen and start a phased removal of all asbestos in schools so that no more children or teachers are exposed to asbestos and risk dying from this entirely preventable disease.”

The full list:

Beanstalk Family Nurture Centre

Carleton Nursery School

Westfield Family Nurture Centre

Clentry Nursery School

Dunmore Nursery School

Fair Isle Family Nurture Centre

Ferryport Nursery School

Gallatown Nursery School

Treetop Family Nurture Centre

Ladybird Family Nurture Centre

Former Leslie Nursery School

Pitteuchar East Nursery Centre

Paxton Nursery School

Sunflower Family Nurture Centre

Viewforth Nursery School

Woodlands Family Nurture Centre

Aberdour Primary School

Aberhill Primary School

Auchtermuchty Primary School

Auchtertool Primary School

Balcurvie Primary School

Balmerino Primary School

Balmullo Primary School

Bellyeoman Primary School

Benarty Primary School

Blairhall Primary School

Buckhaven Primary School

Cairneyhill Primary School

Camdean Primary School

Canmore Primary School

Canongate Primary School

Capshard Primary School

Dunnikier Community Centre

Carleton Primary School

Carnock Primary School

Caskieberran Primary School

Castlehill Primary School

Ceres Primary School

Coaltown of Balgonie Primary School

Coaltown of Wemyss Primary School

Colinsburgh Primary School

Collydean Primary School

Commercial Primary School

Cowdenbeath Primary School

Craigrothie Primary School

Crail Primary School

Crossford Primary School

Crossgates Primary School

Culross Primary School

Dairsie Primary School

Dalgety Bay Primary School

Denbeath Primary School

Denend Primary School

Donibristle Primary School

Dunbog Primary School

Dunnikier Primary School

Dysart Primary School

East Wemyss Primary School

Elie Primary School

Falkland Primary School

Foulford Primary School

Freuchie Primary School

Gateside Primary School

Guardbridge Primary School

Hill of Beath Primary School

Kelty Primary School

Kinghorn Primary School

Kinglassie Primary School

Kingsbarns Primary School

Kingskettle Primary School

Kirkcaldy North Primary School

Kirkcaldy West Primary School

Kirkton of Largo Primary School

Ladybank Primary School

Greyfriars RC Primary School

Largoward Primary School

Lawhead Primary School

Leslie Primary School

Letham Primary School

Leuchars Primary School

Limekilns Primary School

Lochgelly South Primary School

Lochgelly West Primary School

Lumphinnans Primary School

Lundin Mills Primary School

Lynburn Primary School

Markinch Primary School

McLean Primary School

Milesmark Primary School

Milton of Balgonie Primary School

Mountfleurie Primary School

Newburgh Primary School

Newcastle Primary School

Newport Primary School

North Queensferry Primary School

Park Road Primary School

Pathhead Primary School

Pitcoudie Primary School

Pitlessie Primary School

Pitreavie Primary School

Pittencrieff Primary School

Pittenweem Primary School

Pitteuchar East Primary School

Pitteuchar West Primary School

Rimbleton Primary School

Saline Primary School

Sinclairtown Primary School

South Parks Primary School

Southwood Primary School

Springfield Primary School

St Agathas Primary School

St Brides Primary School

St Johns Primary School

St Josephs Primary School

St Kenneths Primary School

St Leonards Primary School

St Margarets Primary School

St Maries Primary School

St Monans Primary School

St Ninians Primary School

St Patricks Primary School

St Pauls Primary School

St Serfs Primary School

Star Primary School

Strathkinness Primary School

Strathmiglo Primary School

Tayport Primary School

Thornton Primary School

Torbain Primary School

Torryburn Primary School

Touch Primary School

Townhill Primary School

Tulliallan Primary School

Valley Primary School

Warout Primary School & Infants School

Wormit Primary School

Methilhill Primary School

John Fergus Special School

Balwearie High School

East Fife Off-Campus Support Centre

Glenrothes High School

Glenwood High School

Inverkeithing High School

Kirkcaldy High School

Madras College (Kilrymont)

Madras College

St Andrews High School

St Columbas High School

Waid Academy/Anstruther Primary

Woodmill High School

Kilmaron Special School

Lochgelly North Special School

Rosslyn Special School

Kirkcaldy Off-Campus Support Centre

Hyndhead Special School