Potentially deadly asbestos has been found in hundreds of schools in Kent.
It’s been revealed 346 Kent County Council-run schools contain the substance, which can cause diseases including terminal lung cancer if inhaled.
The toll came to light following a freedom of information request to KCC, which also revealed hundreds of thousands of pounds has been paid to workers exposed to the potentially lethal building material.
A dozen school employees have taken legal action against the authority – eight of whom received payouts totalling almost £843,000.
But KCC says there have been no recent incidents of asbestos exposure in the county’s schools.
Asbestos can be found in any building built before 2000, including houses, factories, offices, schools and hospitals, and causes around 5,000 deaths every year.
If disturbed, asbestos can release fibres that can cause serious diseases if inhaled, including lung cancer and serious scarring of the lungs called asbestosis.
A council spokesman said:
“The health and safety of all children in our schools is our top priority and we are confident there is no risk to children as a result of the issues raised in this article.
The majority of schools in the UK have some degree of asbestos in their buildings and the presence of asbestos in itself does not present a risk to health providing it is not disturbed and is maintained in a safe condition.
In most instances where asbestos exists in schools it has been used to insulate parts of buildings that are out of sight and not accessible for example boiler rooms, pipes, chimneys and roofs.”
The council added it knows where there is asbestos risk in all its buildings, including schools, and managing the substance is governed through strict controls and in line with health and safety legislation.
In January, an academy trust was fined £35,000 for failing to manage asbestos and ensure the safety of builders working at a Medway school.
Representatives from the Williamson Trust pleaded guilty at Medway Magistrates Court – where it was heard asbestos had been uncovered during work at the Hundred of Hoo Academy, one of the trust’s schools, in 2012.