A recent study indicates that at least seven million children in the UK alone are exposed to asbestos just by simply walking into a school building. The same problem remains in the United States, as thousands of school buildings that were built with asbestos-containing products are still in use today.
Per the UK’s Freedom of Information map, put together by local authorities, 86% of the schools in the UK were built with asbestos and still remain open. Known as the “map of shame,” the map shows numerous areas across the UK in which schools, currently open, contain asbestos.
The UK government, however, stated that it is “ridiculous” to assume children are unsafe, as the asbestos in the school buildings are well-contained. Asbestos is only hazardous if it’s been disrupted and its fibers permeate through the air.
However, critics and organizations that are against any use of asbestos state that the school children are in an “asbestos timebomb,” as kids are energetic and rowdy, and can easily bump into walls and disturb the asbestos.
Unlike the U.S., the UK doesn’t have laws that mandate that parents be notified that a school contains asbestos. Additionally, studies indicate that children are five times more likely to develop mesothelioma if they’ve been exposed to asbestos, compared to adults.
According to Kate Sweeney, a partner in a UK law firm that represents victims of asbestos, anyone is the presence of asbestos is at risk of developing a life-threatening illness, regardless of age or occupation.
“Many people still think that asbestos is only a threat to factory or trade workers and this simply isn’t the case. The deadly material has been used in all types of buildings since the 1950s and is still present in the majority of schools in the UK due to ageing stock. These figures are very concerning and the fact that parents have no right to be notified even more so. Asbestos can be easily disturbed with a simple pinprick of the wall when hanging up children’s artwork and have a long term effect on the health of anyone exposed.”
Along with students, teachers are also at a heightened risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. According to deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Kevin Courtney, the death rate for teachers who developed mesothelioma continue to increase.
“The numbers of teachers dying from mesothelioma are increasing. But for every teacher that dies there will be many ex pupils. It is estimated that between 200 and 300 adults are dying every year as a result of exposure to asbestos when they were at school. Children and staff deserve better than to be exposed to asbestos when they should be safe in school.”
Children in the U.S. Are Also at Risk
Similar to the UK, there are numerous schools in the United States that contain asbestos. Children enter these schools everyday. Under federal law, parents must always be notified when there is an asbestos outbreak in the schools, but in some cases, parents in the U.S. were not made aware that their child’s school contained asbestos, even though it’s a mandated law that all parents must be notified in writing when a school has asbestos.
Many wonder why schools containing asbestos in U.S. aren’t renovated or demolished. According to USA Today, it all boils down to costs and expenses. An estimated $50 billion has already been spent in the U.S. on removing asbestos from schools, which in turn resulted in teachers being laid off.
Instead, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), which requires schools to monitor, maintain, and check up on asbestos-containing areas routinely. If any maintenance is done in which asbestos may be disturbed, parents must be notified and children must be removed from the school until it’s safe to return.
As mentioned earlier, however, there are some cases in which schools fail to properly inform parents of asbestos in schools. If you have a child in a school that contains asbestos, you have the legal right to be informed. If not, be certain to contact your school district and the EPA.
Additional Resources and Help for Asbestos Victims.
If you are a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. We invite you to use our Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool to find a top mesothelioma lawyer in your area. If you have questions or need assistance, feel free to contact us 800-694-4856.