Asbestos in 75% of schools. Teacher killed from pinning up art work.

(44 Posts)
IamFatherChristmasNOTsanta Fri 29-Nov-13 14:34:07

I listened to Jeremy Vine today please listen if you can. It was talk in based around this lady, the only link with info I could see was Daily Mail.^headlines

Its in 75% of schools, the issues are where doesnt have it than where has got it.

It can be distrubed in all sorts of ways, this lady sadly passed away from pinning art work into walls.

All it takes is one fibre to settle in the lungs were it lays latent for decades.

What I found most disturbing was one man called in, and said he helped his GF staple art work into the wall until he saw a tiny, postage stamp warning saying, "don't disturb the walls, asbestos". I was shock aghast at that. As he said how many other un witting teachers in the 75 5 of schools that have this are pinning art work or whatever into the walls and releasing this killer material?

I really want to raise awareness about it. I am in shock

Jenny70 Sat 30-Nov-13 09:19:46

Our school is in a big asbestos hoo-ha due to building works at present... and my rapid learning curve about the issue is that
- your LEA is legally obliged to have a site specific asbestos management plan (involving informing people of it, inspecting it and acting if it is damaged). Many LEA's don't have this and have one plan for all schools (if that), which is useless in helping people in your school avoid asbestos.

- asbestos removal works can take place (by licensed professionals) in your school, with children still on site, without informing parents.

- there are no legal guidelines that separate asbestos exposure to children than anyone else, so asbestos in schools gets no further consideration than a vacant property.

- the LEA is all about butt covering, not common sense or moral duty - if they check the box they are satisfied....

mrz Sat 30-Nov-13 09:46:52

My classroom had ducted air heaters lined with asbestos (apparently removed in the summer although saw no evidence of the type od precautions you would expect) ... so switching on the heating blew out ....

rabbitstew Sat 30-Nov-13 11:44:14

Why just worry about schools? It's just as likely to be in your own home if it was built before the year 2000, and I'll bet you've put shelves and curtain rails up in there. And you wouldn't want to visit a hospital ever again, either, if you were that worried. Or get anywhere near a plumber, or electrician. Asbestos is all over the place. So of course the LEA is all about butt covering. What do you really expect them to do about asbestos in the walls of a school? Tell the school never, ever to put displays up? How easy and cheap do you think it is to remove asbestos from a wall?

ouchthathurt Sat 30-Nov-13 11:51:05

Strange attitude rabbitstew are you of the mindset that we'll all die of something so don't worry about anything at all?

It freaks me out to be honest. My school has stuff on the walls (noticed them for the first time at parent's evening the other day) which is basically an assessment of the asbestos content. Apparently there are asbestos elements in the ceiling. Don't know what they do with this information but was a bit hmm when I saw a ceiling tile missing immediately outside my child's classroom.

rabbitstew Sat 30-Nov-13 12:01:16

A ceiling tile missing isn't a problem - someone drilling into a ceiling tile is a problem. Basically, I'm saying you could probably have an awful lot of asbestos assessment stickers up in your own home, too. You still have to live in it.

randomquicknamechange Sat 30-Nov-13 12:04:39

All schools that contain asbestos should have signs up saying where and how much there is. There are clear rules about where drilling/stapling/pinning is not allowed. Any work on the asbestos is done by licensed contractors in the holidays.
It is one of those frightening things that we can do nothing about as most of us have probably already been exposed, whether at school,hospitals or in our own homes - I am sure many of you have put up light fittings in artexed ceilings.
Due to more awareness our children are far safer than we were at at school.
And yes I do know someone who has died from mesothelioma, my uncle who was an electrician in the 1960s and 70s. At this point the risk isn't one I can change.

ILoveRacnoss Sat 30-Nov-13 12:09:48

I've yet to work in any school where items are pinned or stapled directly to the walls. The Site Manager would kill me before any asbestos would.

We have display boards that we're allowed to use staples on and everything else is blu-tacked.

wonkylegs Sat 30-Nov-13 12:21:10

As somebody who works in construction and is more likely to get exposure than any of the examples cited I think this as slightly hysterical scaremongering.
Asbestos is serious stuff in certain circumstances but it also is endemic in our building stock and we can with awareness, live and work safely with it.
The worst buildings I've found tend to be old NHS buildings - health clinics from the 60's are riddled with it, so are our houses.

The vast majority of asbestos related deaths are related to heavy exposure through construction or industry.

The death statistics being reported with regards to teachers don't seem to marry with the official statistics on Asbestos from the HSE.

If you work in construction there is a big push to educate on identifying and making safe asbestos. There are very strict rules for working with it and these are generally mostly flouted by householders in their own homes through ignorance or through not wanting to pay out to do it safely not in public buildings.

mrz Sat 30-Nov-13 13:14:05

"Tell the school never, ever to put displays up?" actually rabbitstew that is exactly what they do ... someone comes out once a year to check it isn't crumbling and they advice not to stick or pins into it. hmm

mrz Sat 30-Nov-13 13:22:04

According to the HSE F "What it does show is that there has been a considerable level of asbestos exposure among female school teachers. The number of deaths is almost three times higher than one should expect in an occupation where the asbestos fibre levels should be no more than that of normal background levels .^

"Among 900 female occupations, primary and secondary school teachers have the sixth highest number of deaths from mesothelioma The HSE statistics giving occupational mesothelioma deaths lists 900 female Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) occupations."

Alanna1 Sat 30-Nov-13 14:44:39

My understanding (general knowledge only!) is loads of buildings have asbestos. Not all asbestos is as dangerous as all types. If it's undisturbed - lagging around wiring etc behind plaster board etc - then on balance the fire reduction risk is OK against the health hazards of removing it and the tiny tiny risk of inhalation.

Certain types are more easily inhaled. People who worked in installing it etc at particular risk.

rabbitstew Sat 30-Nov-13 14:57:28

Look at the statistics for nurses dying from asbestos exposure and I think you'll find that's higher than expected from "normal background levels," too. And nurses don't normally stick art work on walls.

Current deaths in general relate to asbestos exposure people could have had at any time in the last several decades, far more likely in previous decades than now. People dying now cannot tell you anything about how safe schools are now you are no longer supposed to stick staples directly onto crumbling walls, rather than display boards... they just tell you we have tonnes of asbestos in an awful lot of buildings and public areas and we literally played about with the stuff for years without realising its dangers - workers even used to throw it at each other for fun. Kids used it every time they went into the chemistry lab at school. Problems with asbestosis nearly brought down Lloyds of London, because NOBODY understood how dangerous it was until it had been used in all sorts of things. Now we are stuck with so much of the stuff, it would cripple the economy to try and get rid of all of it. I don't see why teachers now this minute would really be in any more danger than the kids that they teach, tbh.

rabbitstew Sat 30-Nov-13 15:03:59

And, as pointed out, most asbestos is safer left alone than fiddled with. I think most schools are generally safer than smoking 20 cigarettes a day...

LackaDAISYcal Sat 30-Nov-13 15:17:53

afaik from my previous construction industry experience is that the white asbestos used generally in the building industry, in artex, plaster, boarding etc, is less dangerous than blue asbestos and that the risk of it developing into cancer is on a scale; ie the more exposure, the greater the risk.

Also afaik, blue asbestos does get removed when it is doscovered and the measures used for its removal are pretty thorough; workers in haz-zuits with breathing apparutus, totally sealing off the area that is being dealt with and full on extensive risk assessments. I doubt a school would be allowed to have children on site with a full scale asbestos removal going on, having dealt with such works at a college/university level.

I really do think this is more DM scaremongering tbh; the risk to our children in school is probably the same as it is in the general environment.

mrz Sat 30-Nov-13 16:42:00

Also from the HSE

Comparison of female teachers and nurses

"It is useful to make a comparison between female occupations as they are less likely than males to have been involved in any former high risk occupations, and they are also less likely to have carried out DIY. Therefore a comparison of the PMRs from another female occupation can be used to determine whether teachers have been disproportionately exposed to asbestos.
Female teachers can be compared with female nurses as both are professions in which a similarly large numbers of females are employed. In addition one would imagine that the risk from asbestos exposure in both professions should be minimal. However the statistics show that since 1980 the PMR for female primary and secondary school teachers dying from mesothelioma has been 100 and nurses 50 . The teachers’ PMR is twice that of nurses. As there is a direct correlation between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma one must conclude that the asbestos exposure amongst teachers has been about twice that of nurses. It can therefore be concluded that compared to a similar profession, a disproportionate number of female school teachers have died from mesothelioma."

Euphemia Sat 30-Nov-13 17:20:50

Yikes, mrz, that's scary!

wonkylegs Sat 30-Nov-13 18:51:09

Mrz can you link to the HSE stats your quoting?
Looking at the HSE Mesothelioma Occupation Statistics document 1980-2011 Male & Female deaths - they state that there are problems with the female PMRs due to the low number of female deaths (the majority of teachers being female) which skews the statistics and the errors in coding due to the way occupations are recorded on death certificates.
Teaching doesn't feature on the table of high risk occupations for females. The PMR is dropping for teaching from it's peak in the late 80's.
Office workers have a higher PMR and one of the saddest and most prevalent cause of asbestos exposure related deaths in women is still exposure to their husbands.
This study even states there is no increased risk in schools.

mrz Sat 30-Nov-13 19:02:10

It's from this site but I've closed the page and can't find it again I'll link to actual page ASAP

wonkylegs Sat 30-Nov-13 20:45:47

Mrz - I would be careful in taking a site that campaigns only on this specific issue as gospel. It is a little biased on it's evidence base and some of it's statements have a hint of conspiracy theory which is a shame as it does have some valid points, but they have cherry picked their evidence to fit their argument and that alone.
If you look at teaching within the wider occupational research the stats quoted start to look a whole lot less alarming.

rabbitstew Sat 30-Nov-13 21:07:21

From the HSE: "Occupational analyses of female mesothelioma deaths are more difficult to interpret because a lower proportion is caused directly by occupational exposures. Occupations are recorded on death certificates as a matter of course, and so inevitably there are various occupations that are recorded in appreciable numbers on female mesothelioma death certificates. However, these occupations are recorded with the frequency expected if in fact there was no difference in risk between occupational groups. This suggests that where exposure to asbestos did occur at work – for example, due to unwitting exposure caused by others working with asbestos in the vicinity – it was no more likely in any particular occupational group.
The recent epidemiological study supports this view. It suggests that only a minority (around a third) of mesotheliomas in women are a result of either occupational or domestic exposures. This, together with the fact that deaths among women have also increased over the last 4 decades, implies that there has been an increase in the average background mesothelioma risk among both older women (and men) due to exposures that are not readily identifiable. Such exposures could have taken place in a wide variety of settings during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when asbestos was being widely used within the building industry."

Also: "Among teachers, for example, 7 of the 11 male mesotheliomas and 7 of the 18 female cases had also worked in higher risk jobs."

You wouldn't want to be a male carpenter born in the 1940s who worked for 10 years or more - your risk of getting mesothelioma is, according to the HSE, 1 in 17, with an even higher risk if you include all asbestos-related lung cancers.

rabbitstew Sat 30-Nov-13 21:13:52

In fact, the poor old 1940s born carpenters have a 1 in 10 chance of some kind of asbestos-related lung cancer.

lalouche Sat 30-Nov-13 22:01:34

Gosh rabbitstew that's a shocking statistic. My dad was a foundry worker (yes, born in the 40s) and used to come home doused in the stuff. I worry especially about him now, but also about my mum, me and my sibling. There was so much asbestos around and so much potential for very extensive exposure, especially until the 70s or 80s. I too suspect that pinning artwork on walls is quite low down on the list of likely reasons for developing mesothelioma.

mrz Sat 30-Nov-13 22:48:03

Yes wonkylegs just as it would be foolish to dismiss concerns so casually and I speak as the daughter of someone who died from workplace exposure to asbestos and was told for decades it was safe

mrz Sat 30-Nov-13 22:50:43

For the record I don't find the stats alarming but neither would I dismiss them wonkylegs

IamFatherChristmasNOTsanta Sat 30-Nov-13 23:12:46

I was most surprised by the caller whose partner was staple gunning stuff to a wall and he happened to notice a teeny sign saying, this wall has A or something.

Surely, just as a bottom line measure all schools should have an A risk done, as per Jenny70 AND, where there is the stuff, all new staff should be made very aware of the areas where it is, not to pin stuff in and also, what A does to you.

I appreciate you cannot combate it, I have probably been exposed at home, I am sure I remember playing with old lagging and some sort of insulation board.

However, we do know about it now, and our children if in schools where it is, do not need to be needlessly exposed, nor the teachers just because its not being flagged up properly.

Proper signs where it is, quick maintenance where repairs are the radio interview it was said as 60's built schools fall into repair and they cant afford to repair quickly risks rise...

so many people have lost someone to it, sorry for your loss Mrz flowers

rabbitstew Sat 30-Nov-13 23:13:43

I don't see anyone dismissing anyone else's concerns casually, mrz. People should be aware of environmental hazards. I also worry about pollution from cars and industry, lead paint, mercury poisoning, global warming. None of these things should be dismissed casually. I would love to see all schools free of asbestos, given that our children, who are the most vulnerable, spend so much time in them, but I also understand that asbestos is found all over the place and I wouldn't be hugely more trusting of its safe mass removal than ensuring it is kept safely in place, or much more trusting of supposedly safe heat and fire resistant alternatives to asbestos, to be perfectly honest.

IamFatherChristmasNOTsanta Sat 30-Nov-13 23:14:12

I also got the impression from the radio interview that the stats are going to be rising considerably as the next wave of people exposed comes through, probably my 70's born generation.

IamFatherChristmasNOTsanta Sat 30-Nov-13 23:18:17


I think one of the more worrying things about the cancer caused by A is that its terminal and one of the worst cancers you can get. People have got it from washing clothes of workers exposed.

,My DH building had some removed recently and the whole floor was sealed off people in nuclear suits etc.

I just think a simple plan to keep teachers and children safe though, from such silly things as pinning stuff into the walls would be a good basic start to keep everyone protected from such needless exposure.

rabbitstew Sat 30-Nov-13 23:31:18

IamFatherChristmasNOTSanta - I agree, people should be made aware of the risks, but I find it quite frustrating that so many people still seem to be so ignorant despite the fact I think the risks have been quite widely publicised. People seem capable of forgetting what they are supposed to be aware of very quickly after being told. I'm not sure how so many people working currently in schools have managed to avoid being aware of the risks (if there really are great numbers of these people). And to put it into perspective, whilst it is one of the worst cancers you can get, your background risk of getting it is currently about 1 in 1,000 - not like the 1 in 10 chance of a 1940s born carpenter. People still smoke, drink, take illegal drugs, have unprotected sex with multiple partners, despite warnings, and despite the risks from these things being far more likely to become reality - and if there hasn't been a warning in the last 6 months, some people even seem to think it's because the risk has gone away.

rabbitstew Sun 01-Dec-13 00:51:00

In fact, in general, people seem to behave very strangely around risk, so it is genuinely difficult to get the message right and behave in proportionate ways. I seriously resented being told about listeriosis in pregnancy, because I then felt obliged to alter my diet, avoiding several extremely nutritious foods I normally enjoyed, which was stressful, and panicked a bit if I accidentally ate something I "shouldn't" have, or couldn't guarantee the safety of because I'd not prepared it... all over something I was really, truly, extremely unlikely ever to get, even while pregnant. I thus swapped the pleasure of lots of nutritious foods and an exceptionally small risk of something horrible happening, for guaranteed extra stress and inconvenience and a more limited diet. And then the newspapers have the cheek to report how harmful stress in pregnancy might be. Well, whose bl**dy fault is that?!... I would rather not have had all the dire warnings and advice in the first place - not at a time in my life when hormones and new-parent-to-be emotions made it hard to see things entirely rationally. It's not as if I wasn't, in any event, more at risk of killing both myself and my baby by crossing the road, but I didn't stop doing that while I was pregnant.

Not that this is related to asbestos, it just still annoys me. grin

Retropear Sun 01-Dec-13 06:55:00

What age of schools is this most common in and do backing boards attached to the walls give some protection?

2468Motorway Sun 01-Dec-13 07:20:41


You might enjoy a book called 'Reckoning with Risk' . It's excellent on our inability to correctly assess risk.

mrz Sun 01-Dec-13 09:01:43

The primary school I attended as a child was recently pulled down to make way for a larger building and the demolition took place inside a "plastic bubble" by men wearing full breathing apparatus. it was built 88 years ago. Strange when indoor toilets were added some 50 years ago asbestos was removed while lessons went on around the builders.

Retropear Sun 01-Dec-13 09:25:25

Yes this is why I am worried.

I was teaching in a Victorian school when they literally drilled through my classroom wall whilst teaching to put in new toilets.

We always had backing boards on the walls,surely that would give some protection?

mrz Sun 01-Dec-13 09:39:33

although as wonkylegs says the site has it's own agenda.

rabbitstew Sun 01-Dec-13 09:50:44

Retropear - school is highly unlikely to be the only place you've been exposed to asbestos. Better not to focus on what has already happened and can't be changed, because it won't change your risk to think about it. I wonder how many private houses you've been in where the owners have had their bathroom redone, or have been sticking pictures on their walls, or have been doing DIY? Or how many building sites you've walked past where they've been knocking down an old building without a single "bubble" in sight? Schools are not the only buildings in the UK to contain asbestos, nor the only buildings that are allowed to get a bit run down when they shouldn't.

rabbitstew Sun 01-Dec-13 10:07:43

(she says, thinking about it....)

straggle Sun 01-Dec-13 10:51:12

Someone mentioned local authority schools on this thread but independent schools and other maintained schools that are required to have their own asbestos management plan don"t necessarily comply with regulations. This 2011 press release suggests a third of independent schools inspected by the HSE didn't comply, so teachers and pupils may be much more at risk outside LA schools than in them. In maintained schools teachers are more likely to be in classrooms and if there was a problem that affected children the teaching unions would be the first to voice their concern.

Interesting that the Daily Mail article acknowledges the valuable role of the unions here!

At the same time the government considered cutting its asbestos policy work to save money. What message does that send out?

rabbitstew Sun 01-Dec-13 12:27:06

That the government doesn't care?

Retropear Sun 01-Dec-13 13:40:22

That is true Rabbit.

We pulled out of a house because it had an asbestos roof that needed replacing(would have cost ££££££ to do it safely).Was clueless until we got the report back.

The amount of shitty places we've rented over the years too.confused

clam Sun 01-Dec-13 19:39:24

I had a workman round to my classroom recently asking where I wanted my new bookshelves putting. I showed him and he consulted a little map from his pocket and said "sorry love, can't go there, there's asbestos in that wall."
I've stapled things in there before now!! How come he has a little map and knows about it, but I, the class teacher with the staple gun isn't privy to the information?

rabbitstew Sun 01-Dec-13 21:03:37

To be honest, I think you'd have to have a pretty spectacular staple gun to create the same asbestos risk as drilling into a wall to put up shelves, clam. However, it is bad that you are not privy to the information - who knows what you might or might not be doing to the walls?!

Whathaveiforgottentoday Mon 02-Dec-13 22:05:17

I've worked in a school with asbestos and we were not allowed to put things into the ceilings as the tiles contained asbestos.

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