Any Coventry parent or school that has had to deal with the sensitive management and removal of asbestos from within its buildings is likely to be concerned by reports that the potentially lethal substance is present in two thirds of the city’s schools.
In total, 38 of the 57 schools for which Coventry City Council is responsible contain the fibres that can so often cause deadly disease when someone comes into contact with them.
“What is the level of threat to school children?”
The statistics were revealed due to a Freedom of Information request sent by the Local Democracy Reporting Service. They also showed that 13 of the affected schools contained crocidolite, which is the most notorious form of asbestos, given that it is capable of puncturing the lung lining.
Councillor Peter Male, shadow cabinet member for education, voiced his concern over the figures and called for the issue to be addressed in a full council briefing.
He commented: “I am surprised by the findings. A number of questions spring to mind. What is the level of threat to school children? Does the council have a clear plan to reduce the prevalence of asbestos in Coventry schools? If so, is this currently being implemented?
“I would also suggest that the council needs to offer reassurances to further groups, including parents, teaching staff and elected members, many of whom will be school governors and may well be unaware of the scale of the problem.
“To this end I will be requesting that elected members receive a full briefing from the Director of Education to ensure that the problem of asbestos is fully understood and that its potential threat to health is being taken seriously.”
Still a widespread problem in Coventry and UK schools
Despite asbestos having been banned in 1999, it remains present in many educational buildings today. However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said that when properly managed, asbestos only poses a “very low risk” to the health of those using affected school buildings.
While admitting that “some of our older schools do contain varying levels of asbestos”, a council spokesman said: “We carefully monitor all of our school buildings through our asbestos register and where asbestos does need to be removed or disturbed this is done carefully, under controlled conditions by specialist contractors.”
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