Parents, pupils and staff have a right to know about asbestos in their schools - Kirsty Williams

2012 Hydref 16 1:17 PM

Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, is calling on the Welsh Government to conduct a national audit of asbestos in schools following the closure of a school in Caerphilly.

Cwmcarn High School, which has more than 900 pupils, shut late last Friday after a structural report identified asbestos. Many school buildings in Wales were built between the 1940s and 1980s, when asbestos was used extensively.

Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:

"Asbestos is a hidden killer and I am very concerned that pupils, staff and teachers at our schools could be unknowingly exposed to asbestos. Many of our schools that were built between 1940s and 1980s used asbestos during construction for its fire-retardant and insulating properties and the mere act of sticking a drawing pin into a wall could disturb the fibrous crystals. The prolonged inhalation of these fibres can cause serious illnesses including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

"I do not want to cause undue alarm, however when a school of 900 pupils has had to close because asbestos was found in airborne particles, I think that people across Wales have a right to know if asbestos is a danger in their local school. Britain imported hundreds of thousands of tons of asbestos in the last century and we do not know the extent of its use in our schools nor how secure it is in school buildings.

"The welfare of the pupils, teachers and staff at our schools is paramount and I want to Welsh Government to conduct an audit of situation right across Wales. The Welsh Government will try to shift the responsibility onto local authorities and schools however they do not have the sufficient resources or skills to take the lead on this. It's time for the Welsh Government to take responsibility so that our teachers and pupils can have the confidence that they are teaching and learning in safe surroundings."

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