The Facts about Asbestos in Schools

  • The majority (86%) of UK schools and colleges contain asbestos.
  • Asbestos is more easily disturbed in schools than in other buildings. This is because schools are unique in that the majority of their occupants are children, who engage in normal but boisterous behaviour.
  • Much of the asbestos in schools was installed during the 1940s – 1970s and is in a deteriorating state. This means asbestos fibres are more likely to be released.
  • Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lungs and stomach lining, which is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos.
  • 319 teachers have died from mesothelioma since 1980. 205 of these deaths have occurred since 2001.
  • Teachers are now dying from mesothelioma at an average of 17 per year.
  • Support staff are also dying from mesothelioma. It is not known how many have died because of the way the occupational death statistics are recorded.
  • Staff deaths are the tip of the iceberg – for every teacher there are 20 to 30 pupils.
  • Professor Julian Peto has estimated that up to 300 adults die each year from mesothelioma because of asbestos exposure when they were a child at school.
  • Freedom of Information (FOI) requests submitted in 2016 revealed that Councils have paid out over £10 million in compensation to staff and former pupils because of asbestos exposure in schools.
  • School staff often are not told whether their school contains asbestos, and where the asbestos is located. This means it is impossible for them to avoid disturbing it, and they are at risk of asbestos exposure.