Asbestos present in 84 per cent of Plymouth schools
ASBESTOS is present in 84 per cent of Plymouth's council-maintained schools.
But the Plymouth Learning Trust, the Plymouth Association of Primary Heads and Plymouth City Council have stressed children and staff are not under any threat and the risks are being managed.
David Farmer, the head of the Plymouth Learning Trust and headteacher of Plymstock School, said: "It would be ideal if we didn't have any asbestos in any school, but we do. The cost of removing the asbestos couldn't be met, every school has to manage that asbestos."
There are 92 maintained schools in Plymouth, including two nursery schools and altogether 77 of these schools have been identified as containing any amount or type of asbestos, which is 83.7 per cent.
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Mr Farmer added: "All headteachers have been offered training organised through Plymouth City Council, to raise awareness of potential risks to feel more confident when any work is being done and to ensure we're careful.
"There's tight control on it, school leaders take it seriously.
In Cornwall, the 260 schools that were constructed before 1999 contain asbestos, thereafter asbestos in building construction materials was banned.
In Devon, 82 per cent of schools run by the county council have, or are presumed to have, the material in its buildings.
Peter Nash, from the Plymouth Association of Primary Heads (PAPH), said: "PAPH has every confidence that full asbestos surveys have been carried out in all schools by Plymouth City Council; and that the necessary procedures and processes are in place to safeguard children, staff and all visitors to school sites."
Asbestos, which used to be a common building material, is no longer used.
Exposure to asbestos dust and fibres – created when the material is broken up –is believed to be responsible for most of the lung cancer mesothelioma cases, which affects the thin lining of the chest and abdomen.
Mesothelioma often takes between 30 and 40 years to emerge, and there is no cure.
Plymouth has been labelled the UK's third worst hotspot for asbestos-related deaths according to Health and Safety Executive statistics.
The figures reveal that 373 men in the city died from mesothelioma between 1981 and 2005.
The city's high asbestos death rate has been linked to the use of the material in the dockyard.
Councillor Nicky Williams, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "Plymouth is not unusual in the percentage of schools known to contain asbestos compared with other areas that have school buildings of this age.
"We continue to invest in updating school buildings wherever possible within the limited budget we have available.
"The council has replaced 12 per cent of our school buildings over the past ten years, and all of these were 1950 and 60s buildings with high asbestos content."
Following the announcement within the Queen's Speech that the Government intends to bring forward a Mesothelioma Bill before Parliament, Chris Keates, general secretary of teaching union NASUWT, said: "School buildings still contain asbestos and leave pupils and those that teach at risk of contracting this terrible disease.
"Steps need to be taken to obviate this risk for the future through a programme of asbestos removal from schools and other public buildings."
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