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‘Clearing The Air’ – report calls for removal of all asbestos in schools and hospitals

Partner, Jim Byard discusses recent report published by Mesothelioma UK and partner organisations

A recent report published by Mesothelioma UK and partner organisations, “Clearing The Air”, adds weight both to the recommendations issued by the Work and Pensions Select Committee in 2022 and the campaign launched by the Sunday Times in July 2023, calling for the removal of all asbestos from school and hospital buildings.

Asbestos in schools and hospital trusts 

It is estimated that asbestos is present in 80% of schools and 94% of hospital trusts. Some buildings were also designed using a CLASP technique – where asbestos is integral to the construction. This means that asbestos removal is not an option and the only alternative is demolition and rebuilding.

This report estimates the cost of asbestos removal to be £4.5 billion with an additional amount of £11.2 billion for the demolition of CLAP buildings and new construction.  

The report

Providing evidence and argument that mesothelioma mortality amongst both teachers and hospital workers is underestimated by HSE studies, the report estimates the annual cost to the UK economy of asbestos-related disease and illness amongst present and former teaching staff and hospital workers to be £1.3 billion. 

It claims that the under-reporting of asbestos related mortality is skewed due to 2 factors: firstly, the HSE excluding from its occupational database any death where the deceased was over the age of 75. Secondly, by the HSE including only the last known occupation for the deceased – often ignoring earlier work undertaken during the deceased’s working life.

If mortality rates were adjusted, Mesothelioma UK claim that mortality rates would increase to 87 deaths per annum amongst hospital workers and 89 deaths per annum amongst school teachers – six times the current HSE estimates.

Mesothelioma has a minimum latency (the period between exposure to asbestos and onset of symptoms) of 10 years and no upper latency figure, meaning that exposure may occur several decades prior to the first onset of symptoms.

The Government’s position   

So far, the Government and the HSE have resisted calls for a planned program of asbestos removal in schools and hospital trusts stating that where asbestos is identified and deemed to be in good condition, well protected and unlikely to be disturbed, it should be simply left in situ.


Mesothelioma UK hope, through the presentation of this costs benefit analysis, to argue that the economic case for asbestos removal from schools and hospitals makes sense.

This report will undoubtedly add weight both to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s recommendations and the Sunday Times campaign. The moral case for asbestos removal has already been made out, given the elevated mortality rates amongst both teaching staff and hospital workers.

However, with public finances still fragile after the covid pandemic, it remains to be seen how the Government will react to this plausible economic argument.

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