The Spanish website elEconomista.es has published a list of six simple clues to knowing if your school, or your children’s or grandchildren’s school, contains asbestos. It seemed such a good idea that we thought we would adapt it to our situation in England and Wales.
The six clues
- Was the school built between 1950 and 1990? If so, it may contain some asbestos. The peak years for using asbestos were 1960 to 1980. It was cheap. It helped to insulate the school. Using some asbestos fibres made other building materials more flexible.
- Look out for asbestos rooves on school outbuildings, stores and garages. Asbestos might have been used on gutters and downpipes too. Most of these should have been replaced by now. Look out for old and neglected guttering and drainpipes.
- Fire doors lined with asbestos. Asbestos is a very effective fire retardant. Fire doors were routinely lined with asbestos. These should have been replaced by now in corridors and thoroughfares. They might still lurk in the entrance to the boiler room and similar places where teachers and pupils are not expected to go.
- Heating pipes and central heating boilers were often insulated with asbestos. This should have disappeared from areas in frequent use, but may still be found in boiler rooms and other forgotten corners. Sometimes the old pipes and boilers were not removed when new ones were fitted. Electricity meters in boiler rooms may also have been mounted on asbestos insulation board.
- ‘Temporary’ classrooms were often insulated with asbestos. Sometimes the main school buildings were insulated with it too. Asbestos insulation is very difficult to remove, so it will still be there.
- Floor and ceiling tiles often contained asbestos. If your school still has any of the original tiles they may have asbestos in them. Sometimes they are hidden above newer false ceilings or below newer floor coverings.
The government argues that asbestos is safe unless it is disturbed. But it can easily be disturbed and it does gradually deteriorate. It then releases dangerous microscopic fibres. That is why we are campaigning for #zeroasbestos in schools, colleges and all other public buildings.