By Sean Weston
Huddersfield University has confirmed that asbestos has been found in its buildings but its presence is being ‘continually managed’.
A spokesman for Huddersfield University said: “The level of asbestos in buildings on the University’s estate is minimal and where present it is continually managed to ensure no risk to users of the facilities.
“Asbestos is used in new buildings and, as existing structures are redeveloped and elements replaced, the asbestos is removed in a controlled manner.”
The presence of asbestos was confirmed following a Freedom of Information request to 106 universities across the country law firm Stephensons Solicitors LLP.
Some 86 per cent of those that responded said asbestos was present in the fabric of their buildings.
Liz Darlison, head of services at Mesothelioma UK, said: “As new academic years start for all students the presence of asbestos in educational buildings – from schools, colleges to universities – is an issue we need to address as a national priority.”Asbestos is still very much a problem in the education sector from primary schools through to universities and unfortunately the number of cases of asbestos-related diseases in people who have worked in the sector is increasing.
“The potentially deadly material has been used in all types of buildings and is still present in many primary schools and universities due to ageing educational buildings.
“Parents, students, academics, teachers and support staff have a right to know if asbestos is present and what measures are being taken to manage exposure.”
Asbestos was commonly used during construction between the 40s and 70s but was banned in
1999 after it was confirmed that inhaling the fibres could cause life-threatening illnesses like lung cancer and mesothelioma.
The material is generally considered safe unless it is disturbed, which is when the fibres are released.
Students at the University have mixed views on the discovery of the disease on campus. One stated:
“The new buildings were finished before the start of the new academic year so there won’t be much exposure to this asbestos.”
Another added to this by saying “I don’t know what all the fuss is about.”Others took the opposite approach. One student said that they thought that all students should be aware of it because of the health dangers associated with it.
“These fibres can be deadly and I don’t think people know of them” another student pointed out. “This needs to be a priority for those in charge.”
Kate Sweeney, a partner in the personal injury team at Stephensons, said:
“It’s not surprising due to the age of many of the country’s university buildings that an incredibly high number of universities have reported that they have asbestos present in the buildings on their estates.
“As thousands of new students start uni and undergraduates return to their studies, we are calling on universities to better inform students and staff if there is asbestos present on campus and the measures being taken to manage it.
“A consistent and clear message needs to be added to websites, student newspapers and department notice boards.”