Official figures in the United Kingdom have shown that exposure to asbestos in classrooms in England the life of a teacher a month from cancer.
New statistics show that 64 school teachers suffered from the asbestos related cancer mesothelioma in the past 5 years. In all at least 272 teachers have suffered from the horrific cancer since figures began to be collected little over a decade ago.
The department of environment in the United Kingdom have commissioned a report which has warned that Britain has the highest rate of mesothelioma in the world. Many schools in Ireland contain asbestos. It is not unreasonable to assume therefore that many of our school population have been exposed to this deadly disease.
Asbestos has been the main cause of occupational ill health from about 1950 onwards and has still the greatest single work related cause of death from ill health.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a name used for a range of natural minerals.
There are 3 main types of asbestos –
- Glue (crocidolite)
- Brown (amosite)
- White (chrysotile)
Asbestos has been used in a very large number of products, many of which have been used in Irish buildings. Some products have one type of asbestos in them while others have mixtures of two or more. All types of asbestos can be dangerous.
Why is Asbestos Dangerous?
Asbestos is made up of thin fibres. These can break down into much smaller and thinner fibres. The smallest fibres cannot be seen with the naked eye but they can be breathed in.
Asbestos fibres are only dangerous if they are made air born and breathed in but all types of axbestos fibres are potentially fatal if breathed in.
The fibres that are breathed in can become stuck in the lungs and damage them. This can cause scars that stop the lungs working properly (asbestosis) or it can cause cancer. The main types of cancer caused by asbestos are caner of the lung and cancer of the lining of the lung (mesothelioma). These diseases can take from 15 to 60 years to develop and there is no cure for any of them.