Asbestos is a problem that could be plaguing hundreds of schools in Suffolk - potentially putting thousands of staff and students at risk.
The Bury Free Press has reported that new figures show as many as 350 schools in the county might contain asbestos. It noted a Freedom of Information request was made to Suffolk County Council in order to obtain the statistics that illustrate the extent of the potential problem.
Such numbers may be of huge concern to health bosses in the county, as if the asbestos is disturbed it is capable of releasing deadly fibres into the air. Children might subsequently find they develop medical conditions that affect their breathing and lead to serious problems in later life.
A spokeswoman for the council explained that an annual programme of surveys is carried out so that the authority is aware of the state the asbestos is in at any particular time. She added that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has viewed its management system and implied it is happy with how the council deals with the threat.
"From our surveys we know that the only asbestos present in schools is in the form of solid materials such as asbestos cement where the asbestos fibres are firmly locked in the matrix of the material. This sort of asbestos only represents a threat when it is disturbed. At any other time it does not represent any threat," she stated.
The HSE's figures indicate asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. As such, those who are tasked with managing it must be adequately protected with respiratory equipment.
In Suffolk, councillor Lisa Chambers, the cabinet member for environment and property management, explained her belief that the plan set out by the authority guarantees that all is being done to minimise the risk to everybody who could feasibly come into contact with asbestos at any of the 350 schools deemed to be at risk.