Teacher died of cancer due to toxic classroom material
THE death of a teacher earlier this year who suffered from cancer caused by asbestos has sparked a nationwide campaign to remove the deadly building material from thousands of schools.
Sue Stephens died on June 26 from mesothelioma which her daughter Lucie believes was caused after working for more than three decades in several schools that harboured the insulation material.
Lucie has now launched a petition demanding Education Secretary Justine Greening implement the removal of asbestos in all schools.
“Before [Sue] died I promised her that I will do my best to make sure no-one else has to suffer like she has,” Lucie wrote.
“We’ve known the dangers since the 1960s with legislation controlling its [asbestos] use since the mid-1980s. Two million asbestos fibres can fit on a pin head but mesothelioma can develop from ingesting only one or two fibres.”
At least 224 school teachers in England died of mesothelioma between 2003-12.
Children are at least five times more likely to contract mesothelioma after exposure than adults and an estimated 200 to 300 people die each year from exposure to asbestos as schoolchildren.
Ms Stephens claims that more than seven million children and hundreds of thousands of school workers could be saved from contracting the cancer that develops inside the body for decades before it is diagnosed.
Once diagnosed, victims usually die within two years.
A freedom of information Request submitted to all 173 education authorities in England and Wales revealed that 86 per cent of British schools contain the deadly material potentially affecting more than seven million pupils.
On top of this 44 per cent of teachers were not even told that their workplace contains asbestos.
Ms Stephen’s petition, which has already attracted over 8,000 signatures, is backed by 10 unions, including teaching union NUT.
She also called for annual asbestos reports from every school and for the removal of the substance from all schools by 2028.
“MPs recommended this in 2012 but no action has been taken,” she added.
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