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CITY COUNCIL ACCUSED OF COMPLACENCY

23-02-2010

Birmingham council staff have been accused by complacency with regards to the existence of deadly asbestos in schools throughout the city. A new report outlines the dangers which are still faced in our public buildings.

The damning report conducted by the Asbestos Training and Consultancy Association (ATAC) highlights the failings of schools across the country to protect pupils and staff. More than 14,000 schools were built between the 1940s and 1980s, when asbestos was routinely used in building work.

Around 75% of schools in Britain still contain the potentially deadly substance, and there have been cases of both teachers and pupils dying from the fatal disease mesothelioma, contracted from asbestos exposure. It is reckoned that since 1996 at least 178 school teachers have died from this disease – one of the most aggressive forms of cancer.

It is feared Birmingham City Council, the largest local authority in Britain, is failing to address the problem. In answer to a freedom of information request by local campaigners the council stated it held no central records on how many of the 442 schools for which it is responsible contained asbestos nor in how many of those schools were the duties under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 being carried out.

These regulations require stringent measures to be taken to effectively manage asbestos. Yet the ATAC report makes clear that many schools across the country are not managing their asbestos effectively or safely. And of course, if the exact figures are not known then the extent of the potential danger in an area the size of Birmingham, cannot be ascertained.

One of those campaigning on this issue, Doug Jewell of Asbestos Support West Midlands, said: "The Government’s policy of managing asbestos in schools has failed and this report is but further evidence of the appalling standards of asbestos management in many schools. We hope its wake-up call is heard by Birmingham Council.”

Birmingham City council have been unavailable for comment so far but we do, of course, offer them the right of reply.

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