A new campaign is being launched to give parents in Wales the right to know in which school buildings asbestos is present.
The Right to Know: Asbestos in Schools Wales campaign has been launched in the week Cwmcarn High School, in Caerphilly, closed, amidst claims that up to 900 children could have been exposed to airborne asbestos.
The campaign, launched by Cardiff-based law firm NewLaw, is calling on the Welsh Government and Local Authorities to establish a schools asbestos database for Wales
Parents would be able to access the database online, and check whether asbestos is present in any school, and whether a management plan is in place where it is present.
The Right to Know: Asbestos in Schools Wales campaign is being backed by Nick Ramsay, Assembly Member for Monmouth and Shadow Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science. He will be chairing a Cross Party Group on asbestos which will examine the feasibility of establishing a central schools asbestos database.
It is estimated that over 300,000 children in Wales are still exposed by the risk posed by asbestos in schools across Wales. Currently, parents do not have the ability to easily access information on whether or not asbestos is present in their child’s school.
The campaign has received the backing of Monmouthshire County Council, the first local authority in Wales to commit to openly providing its data on asbestos in schools to the public.
In reaction to the closure of Cwmcarn High School, Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, last week called on the Welsh Government to conduct a national audit of asbestos in schools.
Commenting on the campaign, Nick Ramsay AM said:
“It is hard to believe in this day and age the scourge of asbestos still presents a threat to the health of our parents and teachers. An online register will help parents and teachers easily check whether buildings have asbestos present, and where it is, whether it is being managed responsibly. It is only fair that parents are able to check whether their children’s’ schools are affected by this hidden killer.
“The danger that asbestos represents to children and teachers alike should no longer be put to one side, and we will be strongly encouraging local authorities to voluntarily share their data around asbestos in schools.
“I look forward to working closely with colleagues from across the parties in the Assembly to establish this register.”
Cenric Clement-Evans, asbestos expert and campaigning lawyer of NewLaw, said:
"Those working in or attending schools are at risk of developing the fatal cancer mesothelioma in the future if asbestos, which was widely used in school buildings between the 1940s and 1980s, is inadvertently disturbed.
"We need to assess the extent of the asbestos risk before we can begin to manage it. One thing is for certain; we need to better manage the legacy of asbestos in Wales for the sake of our teachers and schoolchildren.
“The example of Cwmcarn High School is not an isolated one, as we believe that around 75% of Welsh schools may contain asbestos. This will happen again in the future if we don’t address this issue now.
“The problem is that whilst individual schools should have their own asbestos register, it is not clear how many schools are affected in total and the extent of the presence of asbestos.
“It is now time for a central register in Wales so we can understand precisely how widespread the risk is.”
To find out more please visit http://www.asbestosrighttoknow.org/
To sign the petition to be presented to the assembly please visit https://www.assemblywales.org/epetition-list-of-signatories.htm?pet_id=…