Following a diagnosis of mesothelioma in 2019, a woman from Leeds is calling for all asbestos to be removed from public buildings, supporting unions that share the same views.
When a pupil at a Leeds school, which has since been demolished, Rose Hall, 64, was unknowingly breathing in asbestos fibres, which, due to the latency period associated with such exposure, was only revealed to her following a diagnosis of uncurable mesothelioma cancer, over 40 years after her schooling.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), asbestos is the biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Thus, 27 trade unions have called for all major political parties to commit to the removal of all asbestos materials within 40 years.
Ms Hall, who has received compensation from Leeds City Council following the location of evidence that proved her school, which has since been demolished and rebuilt, had contained asbestos, has had to stop working as an estate agent.
Asbestos Exposure in Schools
According to the Department for Education (DfE), nearly 81% of England state schools still contain asbestos, despite the substance being banned as a building material in 1999. Although, if undisturbed, asbestos does not pose a risk, the long-term effects of ageing buildings and how the substance breaks down in relation to this is widely unknown.
The Liberal Democrats’ education spokesperson, Munira Wilson, said the government “should be acting urgently to identify and remove asbestos from high-risk areas such as school corridors and stairwells”.
“Instead, schools are having to skip routine maintenance to balance the books,” she added.
Meanwhile, the government has refused to commit to the proposed 40-year deadline, initially called for by MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee last year, saying there is no clear evidence it would improve health outcomes.
In a joint letter from the coalition of 27 trade unions, they said, “Asbestos is one of the great workplace tragedies of modern times and it is a national disgrace that Britain has one of the highest mesothelioma mortality rates in the world.”
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