The Committee on Carcinogenicity, an independent committee that advises the government on cancer, was asked by the Department of Education to look at the relative vulnerability of children to asbestos compared with adults. The Committee conducted a two year study and its final report says that children are more vulnerable to asbestos than adults over their lifetime. It says a five year old is five times more likely than a thirty year old adult to develop mesothelioma if they are exposed to it at the same time. However, the Committee, the government and experts say there is no evidence that children’s lungs are more susceptible to mesothelioma, only that the risk to them is greater because of their expected longer life-expectancy and the time it takes for the disease to develop.
The government maintains that the current advice of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is accepted and it is safer to leave asbestos in place unless it is damaged or disturbed. The Department of Education say it is working hard with the HSE to ensure asbestos is managed properly in schools. However, the Committee’s comments have strengthened campaigners resolve to remove all asbestos material from all schools across the country. Michael Lees, the founder of Asbestos in Schools, said “we want them to look at their policy which says it is safer to leave it than move it and we want them to have an audit to see how much fibre is there”.
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