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Teachers: Mesothelioma

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 27 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many teachers have been diagnosed with mesothelioma in each of the last 10 years; (142289)

(2) if he will issue updated guidance for schools on treatment of asbestos in school buildings;

(3) if he will require all asbestos to be removed from school buildings during refurbishment projects undertaken as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme;

The Department does not have or collect any data on teachers who are diagnosed with any specific medical condition. However numbers of deaths from mesothelioma and asbestosis are published annually by HSE’s Epidemiology and Medical Statistics Unit. They have also published an analysis of deaths from these diseases, between 1980 and 2000, which identifies teaching as a profession.

We recently updated our Department’s guidance on the management of asbestos in schools1. In addition, the HSE also recently updated its notice to governors, proprietors and head teachers of schools in England and Wales about the duty to manage the risk from asbestos in school buildings2.

There is no requirement to remove asbestos from buildings during refurbishment. The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations, as amended in 2004, do not require the automatic removal of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM’s). If the material is in good condition and will not be disturbed then it does not pose a health risk and it is usually safer to leave it in place and manage it. If the material is damaged or is likely to be disturbed and it cannot be repaired or protected, it should be removed.

Anybody undertaking any sort of work on ACM’s must be competent and adequately trained. Licensed contractors must be used for most work with asbestos insulation, asbestos insulating board and asbestos coatings.