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The Past, Present And Future Problem of Asbestos in School

The serious issue of asbestos in schools, as revealed in a government report last month, dates back further than some people may realise.

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An inquest recently heard how artist and mother, Claire Hughes died of mesothelioma that may have been caused by exposure to asbestos in school approximately thirty years ago.

Coroner, Eleanor McGann, learned that the only time Mrs Hughes, 42, was exposed to asbestos was at the age of 12 when there was construction work at Warren Secondary School in Chadwell Heath, near Romford.

This is unfortunately more common than many people might expect. Mesothelioma is traditionally a form of cancer that has affected those working in industrial jobs, but we are seeing more and more people – both teachers and former pupils - coming to us who have breathed in asbestos particles while at school.

I am currently acting for a mum of three, Lisa Doughty, who breathed in asbestos dust while at Haggerston Girls’ School, in Hackney, East London in the 1980s. For more information on this, please see: Former Pupil Diagnosed With Mesothelioma After Being ‘Exposed to Asbestos at School

The National Union of Teachers states that 319 teachers have died from mesothelioma since 1980.

A recent government report revealed the extent of the serious problem of asbestos in UK schools. 100 schools were considered a “significant cause for concern” that required government intervention; the Telegraph informs that the Department for Education (DfE) said it emailed the schools in question and received “reassurances” the asbestos is now safe.

The report, published 24 February by the Education Funding Agency (EFA), found that around 20 per cent of schools were “not fully compliant” with asbestos procedures “in that they did not have fully documented plans, processes and procedures in place at the time of the data collection, or did not know if asbestos was present”.

In the same week a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) found that “asbestos is a significant, and potentially dangerous, issue in many buildings, including most schools”.

For further information on asbestos in schools, please see the following video:



The DfE has since published updated guidance for schools on how to manage asbestos and the results of a survey which showed the majority of respondents have procedures in place.

One of the many devastating traits of mesothelioma is that, as in the aforementioned cases of Mrs Doughty and Mrs Hughes, it takes several decades for its symptoms to manifest for a doctor to make a diagnosis. For that reason it is important that you report any suspected exposure to asbestos as soon as possible.

As you can imagine, in the event you are unfortunately diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, when pursuing an asbestos claim, recalling exact details from several decades ago can prove difficult. Immediately reporting any exposure to asbestos means you will be able to trace the time and place it may have occurred.

You can register any suspected exposure to asbestos here.


Edmund Young is a principal personal injury lawyer, specialising in asbestos disease claims at Slater and Gordon in London.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have a specialist team of asbestos compensation solicitors that deal with asbestos claims on a no win no fee basis. For a free consultation call 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.

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