There’s been growing awareness in recent years of the number of schools that operate from buildings that contain asbestos. It’s no surprise that this story is of enormous concern for parents of children in schools that are suspected of harbouring these deadly materials. That said, asbestos is only of significant concern if it’s airborne. In general, if buildings are in a good state of repair, it’s unlikely that they pose much of a risk to the children or staff and their long term health.
Asbestos health hazards come from the tiny fibres being inhaled as they float through the air. Most building materials that contain asbestos were very hard and solid, like concrete and fire resistant walls. It’s only if the materials become worn (which can occur through wear and tear, but is more common with damage) that the fibres loosen, and eventually get released into the air. It’s still relatively unclear whether or not there is a safe level of exposure, so the assumption is that avoiding areas where fibres have been released is the only safe approach.
When it comes to removing the hazard entirely, it’s not something a school can handle themselves. As this Sheffield school found out eighteen months ago, it’s actually easier than you might think to risk fibre release, even if it’s a wall containing the materials. For example, simply pinning displays to the wall or using a staple gun can cause a risk, as the fibres are so tiny, a significant number can be released from a very small amount if disturbance to a wall. If the surfaces are in poor condition, they could even crumble, exponentially increasing any fibre release.
So, there are two clear action points to take away – firstly, staff and pupils need to be aware that until they are sure that asbestos is not present, every care should be taken to avoid any risk of disturbing asbestos fibres as far as practically possible. Secondly, and leading out of the first, asbestos sampling and testing should be completed as soon as possible, so that action can be taken to remove any concerns and the school can return to normal as soon as possible. You can get a free quote easily, just like that Sheffield school could, at http://findasbestosremovalcontractors.com/sheffield/.
As a final point of note, there is no need to panic. Asbestos has been present in schools, colleges, homes and workplaces for many decades, and we’re not seeing a huge rise in health issues. What is important is that the appropriate action is taken before materials containing asbestos begin to wear, to protect our children and teaching staff from this dormant threat.