As tens of thousands of students across the country head back to campus for the start of a new educational semester, there is a new threat that is putting thousands of students at risk at some of the most prestigious schools in the country. A recent national study of universities across the United Kingdom reveals that almost two-thirds of schools have asbestos in campus buildings – the number could be just as high in the United States.
A freedom of information request from one of the top law firms in the United Kingdom revealed that 74% of 106 different universities across the country have the harmful material present in the fabric of their building. 78 individual higher-educational establishments showed that traces of asbestos could be found in the fabric of their building.
Asbestos is the single largest workplace killer in the United Kingdom with more than 5,000 deaths per year being linked to asbestos exposure in the workplace. For students across the United Kingdom and the United States, the presence of asbestos materials in buildings where higher education is carried out should be a serious cause for concern.
Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999 but was widely used in the construction industry in the preceding half century which means the effects can still be felt across the country. In the United States, there has been increasing legislation around the usage of asbestos materials in the construction industry, however, despite being a known carcinogenic, asbestos has still not been outlawed by the United States Government.
Asbestos fibres can become a serious threat to human health when they are released into the air and breathed in. According to asbestos removal company GBAR Group Wollongong, problem buildings that have damaged ceiling tiles, roofing material, and rotten windows pose the greatest threat for asbestos exposure.
As of 2019, the risk of asbestos exposure in the educational sector from primary school right the way through to Universities and tertiary educational institutes still poses a large threat. The widespread use of asbestos in the second half of the 20th century means that all types of buildings (including educational buildings) constructed between 1950 and 1990 are likely to contain asbestos materials in some capacity.
Students, academics, and teachers all have the right to know whether asbestos is present and what measures are being taken by educational institutions to decrease the risk of exposure. Most universities have an asbestos information page listed on their website. If you are concerned about the risks of asbestos exposure at college or university, you can contact your relevant University health service or seek further information from the administration’s office.