Nichol Associates

Nichol Associates

Head Office: 0191 438 5432 Training Centre: 0191 4385432

Suffer the asbestos Children?

As the MD of an asbestos training company, I have commented many times on the risks posed to teachers and pupils alike due to asbestos in schools. While I and other experts have always backed the current HSE guidelines, new research from the Committee on Carcinogenicity suggesting the greater susceptibility of children to asbestos may have to cause a rethink or at least should re-open the debate.

Estimates suggest that asbestos is present in three quarters of England’s 24,000 schools, but as it only becomes a health hazard when disturbed, the policy has been to monitor the substance unless its position or deterioration demands its urgent removal. However, as this recent research suggested children are more vulnerable than adults, this has re-ignited calls for asbestos to be removed from all schools.

While global removal would be the ideal solution in a perfect world, shutting down most schools in this country to remove asbestos would present a logistical, educational and unprecedented removal challenge. We would advise making a start in those schools where there is an immediate risk of the asbestos being disturbed before moving onto others. My company Nichol Associates is training more and more people to safety remove asbestos, but more will be needed to take on such a challenge. For now, we would continue to support the HSE line of monitoring and managing, but a nice compromise would be for the government to engage in new research that would give us all an indication of the scale of the problem we face.

If the problem is smaller than we think, perhaps we can devise a program of asbestos removal. If worst fears are confirmed that asbestos is present in all schools, then perhaps we need to look again. The fact is school buildings to deteriorate over time, so this problem is going to raise its head sooner or later and pretending it doesn’t exist is not a long term solution.

More than 170 teachers have died from mesothelioma, so we cannot afford to be complacent. Due to the long latency period, we will not know for another 20-30 years how many more teachers or indeed children may have been affected. But with the number of schools containing asbestos perhaps as high as 90 per-cent, shutting them all is not an easy option.

The good news is employing contractors who are fully trained in how to detect, contain and remove asbestos is becoming easier than ever. Nichol Associates has spent years training thousands of people throughout the UK to detect and remove asbestos safely. Experts can advise on whether the asbestos in your building is safe or in need of removal. Visit www.nicholassociates.co.uk for further information and advice.

David Nichol – Managing Director, Nichol Associates

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