Court blames exposure for death of retiree Elizabeth Belt
TEACHERS and pupils are still at risk of deadly asbestos poisoning, unions warned last night after a court blamed classroom exposure for the death of a retiree.
Lincolnshire coroner Paul Kelly recorded that Elizabeth Belt, who taught in schools in the county from 1968 to 1995, died as a result of an industrial disease.
Ms Belt suffered from mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer which can materialise decades after exposure to asbestos dust, for three years before her death last September.
She worked for decades in classrooms where display boards were made of the deadly insulator, a practice which is now banned.
But unions say a whopping three quarters of schools — mainly buildings constructed between 1945 and 1975 — still have the substance on site.
Former Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) president Hank Roberts said its continued presence on sites was a “national scandal” that had led to Britain becoming “the mesothelioma capital of the world.”
National Union of Teachers’ (NUT) general secretary Christine Blower said: “The death of yet another teacher reinforces the reason why the issue of asbestos in our schools needs to be effectively dealt with.
“The problem has been brought to the attention of successive governments for decades yet still there is no long-term strategy for the complete removal of asbestos from schools.
“It is a gross dereliction of duty to children and school staff that this silent killer remains in schools.”
Research carried out by the NUT last year found that four in five schools failed to offer information on how the “silent killer” could be managed.
Fellow teaching union NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates blasted: “Data from the Health and Safety Executive and the union’s own casework demonstrates that in too many schools statutory and good practice provisions relating to the management of asbestos are being flouted.
“This government fails to take seriously health and safety concerns, has cut funding to the Health and Safety Executive, has failed to secure the compliance of employers with health and safety provisions and has consequently increased the risks to employees.”
Ms Belt provided written testimony before her death detailing the presence of asbestos in the classrooms in which she worked. Last year the NUT estimated that 300 former pupils and 15 teachers were dying of mesothelioma.