IT’S a problem that is only going to get worse.”
Those were the words of |a Southampton asbestos campaigner in the wake of a Hampshire teacher’s death due to exposure to the substance in the classroom.
As reported by the Daily Echo, an inquest this week ruled Marion Potts died of mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in school, although it could not pinpoint which one.
She was thought to be the first teacher in the region to die of the disease, but Lynne Squibb, co-founder of Hampshire Asbestos Support and Awareness Group (HASAG), said the problem was more wide-spread.
Lynne said: “This is not the first teacher in Hampshire to get mesothelioma through exposure at school. We’ve seen a handful of teachers that have been diagnosed with mesothelioma over the years. It is an ongoing |problem, as around 90 per cent of schools still contain asbestos. The major concern is a child contracting it, but it can take anywhere between 20 and 60 years from exposure to asbestos to developing the disease, so we won’t see the effects for decades.”
Southampton-based HASAG was started by Lynne and her sister Diane in 2006, two years after their father Dave Salisbury was diagnosed with mesothelioma. The 71-year-old spent his entire career at Eastleigh railway works and died in December 2005.
Lynne added: “It’s something we have been campaigning on, along with the Asbestos in Schools group (AiS) which has been lobbying the Government to do something. But the Government is looking to keep it in situ and asks schools to keep an asbestos register and we don’t feel that is enough.
“We hear removing asbestos is too expensive because it is so specialist but you cannot put a price on just one person’s safety.
“Every time you hear a school is building a new block and knocking down other parts, asbestos could be released.”
Asbestos expert Michael Lees warned the problem was even more serious because children are more vulnerable to the effects of asbestos than adults.
Mr Lees, a founder member of AiS, said: “Exposure in school will contribute a significant amount of ‘lifetime exposure’ because you are looking at people who are more vulnerable.
“The lifetime risk for a five-year-old exposed to asbestos is five times greater than a 30-year-old.”
Both the city and county council have said asbestos is monitored in Hampshire schools and removed where possible.