Pupils throughout the Roe Valley are being schooled in buildings that contain the cancer-causing fibre asbestos, it has been revealed.
Across Derry, Limavady and Strabane almost 80 school buildings – including nursery, primary and secondary schools – were found to contain asbestos, according to the Department of Education. In the Roe Valley, 20 school buildings – both primary and secondary – were found to have the fibre.
Commonly used as a building material from the 1950s through to the 1980s, asbestos can cause disease including potentially fatal asbestosis and lung cancer if it is disturbed and particles become airborne.
The Department has moved to assure the public that left undisturbed asbestos poses no threat.
“Government policy is that, provided asbestos is in good condition and is unlikely to be disturbed, it is better to manage it for the remaining life of a school rather than to disturb it,” a spokeswoman said.
The shocking extent of the presence of asbestos in schools right across the north was revealed in response to a question asked in the Stormont Assembly by SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone.
SDLP councillor, Michael Coyle said the news was “no surprise”.
“The first thing is, bearing in mind the age of the schools, it’s no surprise there is asbestos in most of the schools,” he said. “The danger of asbestos only arises when it is disturbed. The consequences can be very serious when this happens, but I am sure that the education authorities and boards of governors of schools have put in place a good routine in maintenance of the buildings which should pick up any damaged or dangerous material.”
The Department of Education spokeswoman continued: “The Department takes the matter of health and safety in schools very seriously and is acutely aware of the potential risk posed by asbestos-containing materials for staff and pupils of educational establishments. The education sectors, in line with current legislation and policy, manage the presence of asbestos-containing materials in the schools’ estate.”
The spokeswoman said should deterioration of asbestos-containing materials occur, “then they should be removed, repaired or encapsulated by a licensed asbestos company”.
Last month it was revealed that across the north almost 900 schools were found to contain asbestos.
You can read the full list of which north west schools are affected by logging onto www.derryjournal.com