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Asbestos timebomb in Wales' classrooms; 'Wherever there is asbestos in our schools, then there is a risk'.

Byline: Abby Alford

HUNDREDS of thousands of Welsh children attend lessons in schools containing potentially-deadly asbestos.

More than 377,000 youngsters are exposed to the risk posed by floor tiles, ceiling tiles and dozens of other common materials every day, an investigation carried out by the Western Mail has revealed.

The NASUWT teaching union has called the figures - obtained under the Freedom of Information Act - "very worrying" and now plans to call on all local authorities to begin a complete removal programme at the earliest opportunity.

Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay, who co-hosted a conference on asbestos at the National Assembly earlier this year, said: "Asbestos is a hidden killer and we must eliminate it from our schools.

"It is frankly unacceptable that teachers and children are being exposed to this deadly material on a daily basis.

"Action needs to be taken now to tackle the asbestos timebomb in schools across Wales."

Zoe Brewis, a research and information officer for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) Cymru, said: "These figures are totally shocking and make depressing reading.

"We already know from the Health and Safety Executive that in the 20 years between 1980 and 2000, at least 182 people working in education died in the UK from mesothelioma. These figures will almost certainly rise in the next 20 years due to the extent of asbestos in schools across Wales.

"We can no longer play Russian roulette with the lives of our children and teachers." Teachers are up to 10 times more likely to suffer from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses and their pupils are also at risk, although the disease may not manifest for decades. Around 4,000 deaths every year in the UK are attributed to asbestos and the Health and Safety Executive expects 90,000 people to die in an asbestos-related disease epidemic by 2050. The law requires all schools to keep a register of the asbestos in its buildings and a management plan to reduce risk. When it is well managed and undamaged, the risk posed by asbestos is small. It becomes dangerous when the materials it is contained within become damaged and fibres are released. If the fibres are breathed into the lungs, they can cause potentially-fatal disease. Responsibility for managing asbestos in schools lies primarily with headteachers and the process is overseen by local authorities. Rex Phillips, Wales organiser for the NASUWT, told the Western Mail: "My view is that wherever there is asbestos, there is a risk. "My view is that we should err on the side of caution and press local authorities to remove all the asbestos in schools, starting with that which poses the greatest risk. And any removal work that is done, should be done during the school holidays. "The Western Mail's investigation shows the problem is far more extensive than anyone thought. "It has raised a very ser- ious issue and I will be suggesting to our local secretaries that they sit down with the local authorities and ask them when they will be removing the asbestos, how it will be done and when it will be done. "They (local authorities) are on notice that there's a risk and if that means they have to go to the Welsh Assembly Government and ask for additional money, then we would support them in that quest." Asbestos surveyor and consultant Emma Corfield, who co-hosted the Asbestos: Hidden Killer event at the National Assembly in March, said although the use of asbestos was halted around three decades ago, it is only now that its potentiallydeadly legacy is being recognised. Ms Corfield, managing director of Core Surveys, became passionate about tackling asbestos after seeing a family friend suffering from asbestosis. He had been exposed when he worked as a builder. Having reviewed the findings of the Western Mail investigation, she said local authorities' understanding of asbestos regulations and management of the risks appears to be "patchy at best".

"There's tons and tons of this stuff in schools," she said. "It doesn't have to be removed, but it does have to be managed properly. "Some of the authorities don't seem to realise the difference between an asbestos register (the location of everything) and a management plan which, like a health and safety policy, sets out roles and responsibilities, how the risk is communicated to staff and when it is going to be audited and reviewed." Ms Corfield said as a minimum, she would like to see every school issued with a proper management plan, with each person affected by asbestos, such as maintenance staff and contractors, given the proper training and for high-risk asbestos-containing products, like pipe lagging, to be removed. Mr Ramsay said: "These statistics are extremely worrying. "I have always been aware of the danger posed to pupils and teachers by the presence of asbestos - it is believed that since 1980 nearly 300 teachers and lecturers have died of mesothelioma - however to see just how many schools across Wales are affected is astonishing. "I have recently tabled a Statement of Opinion in the Welsh Assembly, calling on Assembly Members to support immediate action to increase the awareness of this problem amongst education staff, which has been met with crossparty support." All the facts you need to know about asbestos Q:What is asbestos? A: It is a naturally-occurring mineral that is obtained from rock. It has long and thin fibres. White, or chrysotile, is the most common and least dangerous form. Brown (amosite), and blue (crocidolite) are different and are far more dangerous.

Q:What is it used for? A: It is versatile and has insulation properties, can be used as fire protection and also protects against corrosion. It was used extensively as a building material in the UK from the 1950s through to the 1980s. It was used to make ceiling tiles, floor tiles, in roofs, as pipe lagging and in textured wall coatings. Its use has been banned in the developed world since the danger became known, but it is still used in developing countries. Q:Why is it dangerous? A: Asbestos is not dangerous when the products in which it is contained are in good condition. But if its condition deteriorates, dangerous fibres are released into the atmosphere and can cause disease in later years if inhaled. The fibres from brown and blue asbestos remain in the lungs and do damage. It is now the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK and is known as the hidden killer. According to the Health and Safety Executive's website, 20 tradesmen die from asbestos-related disease every week. Q:What diseases does it cause? A: Mesothelioma is a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum). It is almost exclusively related to asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal. Asbestos-related lung cancer is the same as (looks the same as) lung cancer caused by smoking and other causes. It is estimated that there is around one lung cancer for every mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos over many years. This condition can cause unpleasant shortness of breath and in severe cases can be fatal. Pleural thickening. This is generally a problem that happens after heavy asbestos exposure. The lining of the lung (pleura) thickens and swells. If this gets worse, the lung itself can be squeezed, and can cause shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest.Results of the investigation into asbestos inWelsh schools Anglesey Out of 52 primary and five secondary schools, all but two contain asbestos. Only two primaries do not. Brown and white asbestos present in floor tiles. The council said each affected school has an asbestos management plan in place and some asbestos removal work has been done. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 9066. Blaenau Gwent Out of 36 schools, 30 contain asbestos. Brown and white asbestos present in floor and roof tiles and textured coatings, plus ceiling tiles, fire breaks, toilet cisterns, service pipe lagging, roof coverings, mechanical and engineering plant. The council said each affected school has an asbestos management plan in place and some asbestos removal work has been done. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 8757. Bridgend Out of 70 schools, 55 have asbestos-containing materials. Brown and white asbestos present in floor and ceiling tiles, wall panels and roof sheets, artex coatings and column casings. All schools have an asbestos management plan in place. Some removal done. No removal in many schools. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 17,379. Caerphilly : Out of 89 schools, 75 have some form of asbestos .

Brown and white asbestos present in floor and ceiling tiles, textured coatings and wall boards. Asbestos management plan being rolled out in addition to surveys, logs and training already received. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 23,279. Cardiff: Out of 130 schools, 122 have asbestos-containing materials. Brown and white asbestos found in floor tiles, textured finishes and insulation materials. The council said each affected school has an asbestos management plan in place and some asbestos removal work has been done. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 46,575. Carmarthenshire: Out of 132 schools, 126 contain asbestos. Mainly brown and white asbestos found in floor tiles, roof tiles, textured coating, insulating board and pipe insulation. Six schools do not currently have management plans in place, although these should be in place by the end of October 2009. In addition, the authority said it has strict processes in place with regard to work being undertaken within school premises and all head teachers and responsible officers have received training on asbestos management and the processes in place. Some asbestos has been removed, but removal is only done when it is in a poor condition or because of refurbishment work and prior to demolition. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 23,694. Ceredigion: Out of 76 schools, 62 contain asbestos. Predominantly white asbestos in floor, ceiling and roof tiles and external soffits. The council said each school has an asbestos management plan, which are currently being rolled out. Removal has taken place at 21 primary and six secondary schools. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 8,746. Conwy: Out of 69 schools, 60 contain asbestos. 38% white asbestos, 59% brown and 3% blue found in floor tiles, ceiling tiles, boarding and panels to walls and ceilings and toilet cisterns. All schools under authority control have a copy of the county asbestos code of practice, head teachers have received asbestos-management training and all schools have asbestos registers on site which, together with the management arrangements, are audited annually. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 12,098 Denbighshire: Out of 61 schools, 56 contain asbestos. Mainly white, brown and some blue asbestos found in cisterns, sink pads, debris, pipes, tiles and walls. The council said each affected school has an asbestos management plan in place and some asbestos removal work has been done. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 15,654 Flintshire: Out of 86 schools, 58 contain asbestos. Asbestos containing materials in floor tiles, toilet cisterns, bitumen sink pads, boiler plant and pipe work, textured coatings to ceilings, soffits, facias, insulation. Council said it has an asbestos management health and safety policy implemented after the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 came into place, which applies to all public buildings and schools. Most school buildings have had asbestos containing materials removed and/or encapsulated. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: Exact figure not available, but total number on roll in Flintshire is 23,733. Gwynedd: Out of 120 schools, 112 contain asbestos. All three main types of asbestos present in roofs, ceilings, walls and partitions, floor coverings, doors, fixtures and fittings and boiler houses. All schools monitored regularly and an asbestos survey has been carried out at all schools. All asbestos identified as being unmanageable has been removed by specialist contractors. All remaining asbestos is managed.

Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 16,878 Merthyr: Out of 30 schools, 27 contain asbestos. Brown and white asbestos in floor tiles and textured coatings. Asbestos removed by HSE-licensed contractors if not in a good condition or before construction work. All schools have an asbestos register. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 7,876 Monmouth: Out of 39 schools, 34 contain asbestos. Mainly white and some brown asbestos present in textured finishes, ceiling and floor tiles, wall and insulating panels. The council said each affected school has an asbestos management plan in place and some asbestos removal work has been done. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 10,938 Neath Port Talbot: Out of 82 schools, 69 contain asbestos. Brown and white asbestos found in floor tiles, ceiling tiles, external roof sheets and column casings. Council said it "rigorously operates an asbestos check authorisation procedure whereby all schools have to seek prior approval for any works that are to be undertaken in a school premise". Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 18,108 Newport Out of 55 schools, 54 contain or may contain asbestos. But the exact figure is not known. The council said: "Type 2 asbestos surveys have been carried out on all Newport schools, which show the presence of asbestos in readily accessible areas. Only a Type 3 survey, which involves intrusive investigation and considerable damage to the fabric of the building, would be likely to identify all asbestos. For this reason, it is not possible to say with certainty how many schools contain asbestos." The council said each affected school has an asbestos management plan in place and some asbestos removal work has been done. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 23,590. Pembrokeshire: There are 74 schools in the county. The council said it does not hold information on how many schools contain asbestos. "However, we can confirm asbestos is present, in some form, in schools built prior to 1980." All three types of asbestos, but mainly white, present in floor and wall tiles and textured coatings. Pembrokeshire council has an asbestos management plan in place in accordance with section 4 of the control of asbestos at work regulation. Total number of pupils on school roll: 18,600. Powys: Out of 120 schools, 99 schools contain asbestos according to Type 2 survey, but figure not categorical as Type 3 destructive surveys not done. 90% of affected schools have white asbestos, 62.6% of affected schools have brown asbestos and 9.1% of affected schools have blue asbestos that can be found in ceiling, floor tiles, soffits, guttering, cisterns, vent lining, cladding, gaskets, sink pad, lagging, oven door, door panel. The council said each affected school has an asbestos management plan in place and removal work has been done in 50% of schools. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 16,406. Rhondda Cynon Taf: Out of 146 schools, 132 contain asbestos. Commonly white and brown asbestos in floor tiles, plastic toilet cisterns, artex coatings and blue asbestos in asbestos cement products. The council said each affected school has an asbestos management plan in place and some asbestos removal work has been done.

Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: Council says that breakdown is not possible. Total pupil number in January 2009 stood at 40,070. Swansea: Out of 103 schools, 99 likely to be affected as all schools built prior to 1999 are likely to contain some form of asbestos, according to council. Mainly white asbestos found on school premises, but sometimes brown and rarely blue in firebreaks, blankets, floor tiles, soffits, gutters and fascias. All schools issued with an asbestos survey and the council said all head teachers are aware of their duties in managing asbestos. Some removal work has been done. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: No figure given. Torfaen: Out of 39 schools, 38 contain asbestos. Mainly white and brown asbestos found in floor and ceiling tiles, fire breaks, plant and pipe lagging. The council said each affected school has an asbestos management plan in place and some asbestos removal work has been done. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 15,919 Vale of Glamorgan: Out of 60 schools, 55 contain asbestos. Mainly white asbestos in artex and floor tiles and insulation board, ceilings and columns contain brown asbestos. The council said each affected school has an asbestos management plan in place and some asbestos removal work has been done. Total number of pupils in schools that contain asbestos: 20,417. Wrexham: Out of 74 schools, 63 contain asbestos. White and brown asbestos in walls, floors, ceilings, roof structures, boiler rooms, fittings, pipe insulation, kitchen equipment and toilet facilities. The council said each affected school has an asbestos management plan in place and some asbestos removal work has been done.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 27, 2009
Words:2856
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