Ongoing timebomb of asbestos in schools to cost £58m in Worcestershire alone

The leader of the county council’s Labour group criticised Worcestershire County Council after it was revealed the area’s schools have a severe problem with asbestos which will cost £58million to put right, according to the Bromsgrove Standard.

Coun Peter McDonald said research he had conducted had found 140 council-maintained schools contained the substance which, he added, had the potential to put pupils and teachers at risk.

Coun McDonald said he had raised the issue with the county council and called on the authority to act.

“Although asbestos removal is expensive, this can be no excuse for the county council not to carry out its obligations of duty of care to both children and staff and start putting together a plan to remove all asbestos from schools as soon as possible.

Asbestos in our schools is a ticking time bomb and needs defusing now before any more teachers die of asbestos related illnesses and our children are no longer put at risk.”

Many people believe that asbestos, provided it is contained and well-managed, would not pose a particularly serious risk.

However, Coun McDonald said:

“Schools are very different places from offices, because children can be careless and buildings can easily be damaged, allowing the asbestos fibres into the air.

In addition, there are no warning signs on the walls stating asbestos has been encapsulated.”

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A report by the Medical Research Council suggests even when a school building containing asbestos is in a good state of repair, fibre levels are between five and 500 times of those found outdoors. Coun McDonald added:

“Children attending these schools are likely to inhale around 3,000,000 fibres during their school lives.”

Coun Karen May, Worcestershire County Council’s Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Transformation and Commissioning, said:

“We are currently in the middle of a programme of checks to make sure all asbestos is cleared from our schools.

The removal of asbestos from a school generally occurs as part of a refurbishment or similar project and depends on the type and condition of the asbestos containing material (ACM), whether it has a function that can’t be replicated by another material and whether it is likely to be damaged or disturbed.

Any removal of asbestos needs careful planning in order to minimise disruption to the school.”