Asbestos in schools

11 September 2018

Research by the BBC has found that just over half of schools in the North West of England are known to contain asbestos and that may be reflected nationwide.

A recent report on BBC Inside Out Northwest has highlighted once again the dangers of asbestos in schools. It raises concerns that local authorities may be understating the problem because many schools, including academies and free schools, are outside LEA control.

No obligation for school to provide information

Asbestos is believed to be in 86% of schools in the UK, yet many parents are unaware whether asbestos is present in their children’s schools or not. Indeed, there is no obligation on a school to inform parents if asbestos is present and that their children could be at risk. Asbestos was used extensively in the construction of buildings in the past due to its fire proofing properties, but the risk to someone’s health is extremely costly. The use of white asbestos was not banned in this country until 1999, meaning that any building constructed before then could potentially contain asbestos.


Mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, can be caused by exposure to one asbestos fibre alone. There is currently no cure and life expectancy following diagnosis of this aggressive cancer can be extremely short. It can take anywhere between 15-60 years for someone who has been exposed to asbestos to present with symptoms.

Whilst asbestos is only hazardous once disturbed and the fibres are released, there are frequently reports in the press of incidences where the asbestos has been disturbed due to weather or other factors. Asbestos may be in ceiling tiles, walls, notice boards and even in science labs where Bunsen burner gauze may contain the deadly material.

UK has worst record for teacher deaths from asbestos

Teaching Unions have long been calling for the removal of asbestos from all schools. It is estimated that 200 teachers have died from mesothelioma since the start of the century due to exposure to asbestos in their classrooms, with the UK having the highest incidence of teachers dying from asbestos. In recent figures published by the Health and Safety Executive, there were 2,595 mesothelioma deaths in 2016 and they estimate, in addition, there were a similar number of deaths due to asbestos-related lung cancer. The North West continues to have the highest death toll.

If you have been exposed to asbestos in school and are now suffering from an asbestos-related illness you may be entitled to compensation. Please contact our specialist asbestos lawyers, for a no obligation, confidential discussion.

If you are concerned about whether asbestos may be in your child’s school, follow this link to the Asbestos in Schools Campaign’s website for a list of questions you can ask.



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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