The Asbestos Advice Helpline’s new infographic includes figures on the number of schools in the UK that are thought to contain the material - almost 90 per cent - and when disturbed what effect it can have on teaching staff and children.
Asbestos was used in school construction in lagging, ceiling panels, partition walls and sprayed coatings from the 1950s until 1999, when it was banned.
The Government’s policy is to manage rather than remove asbestos in schools.
Entitled ‘Asbestos in UK schools: the real threat to our children’, the infographic warns that staff and pupils are unaware of the potentially fatal effect of exposure to asbestos, which can be released into the air by children kicking walls or door frames, slamming a door, removing books from cupboards and pinning work to walls if they contain asbestos.
It claims that children attending schools built prior to 1975 are likely to inhale around 3, 000,000 respirable asbestos fibres.
Asbestos exposure can lead to cancers such as mesothelioma or lung cancer and asbestos-related respiratory diseases, including asbestosis or pleural thickening. It takes 30-50 years for mesothelioma, a type of cancer that most often starts in the covering of the lungs, to develop, by which time the cancer is likely to have spread.
However, the Asbestos Advice Helpline says it can be difficult to diagnose asbestos-related respiratory cancers and diseases, as many of the symptoms mimic those of other conditions including asthma and pneumonia.
According to the helpline, following diagnosis only 40 per cent of people survive more than a year and eight per cent more than five years.
It also claims that more people die each year in the UK from asbestos-related diseases than any other country in the world.
The infographic reveals that over 2,500 people die each year from mesothelioma, and at least a further 2,000 from asbestos-related lung cancer in this country, higher than the number of people killed in car accidents.
In the past ten years, over 140 teachers have passed away from mesothelioma. This figure does not include caretakers, school cleaners and administrative staff.
Children are up to five times more likely to develop mesothelioma than adults by age 80, following exposure to asbestos, as their lungs are not yet fully developed.
Nicola Choa from the Asbestos Advice Helpline said, ‘Much of the asbestos used in school construction is badly maintained and poses a threat to both pupils and staff.
‘Asbestos exposure can lead to related respiratory diseases and it’s something we all need to take more seriously. We’re hoping that the new infographic will grab people’s attention and educate them about the risks much better than pages of text.’