Cancer expert to advise of potential heightened risk of asbestos related diseases in female teachers born between 1955 and 1974

Nicola Dawn
Nicola Dawn

Published: January 24th, 2023

7 min read

Researchers have detected a possible increase in deaths from mesothelioma in women in the late 40s to mid 60s age group who may have had exposure to asbestos material in school buildings.

The latest study has prompted teaching unions to propose a study in conjunction with Professor Julian Peto. The recent study which looked at the data for 2011 to 2020 showed an excess of mesothelioma deaths in female teachers born between 1955 and 1974. There were 19 mesothelioma deaths versus the 12.3 expected which is statistically significant. The numbers are too small to give a reliable estimate of the continuing risk and that is why unions have proposed the further study to look into a possible link.

Official data has previously shown that female former teachers who were born between 1935 and 1954 have a 40% increased risk of being diagnosed with mesothelioma as they were working in schools when asbestos was still being installed. The aim of the latest proposed study is to look at the risk of those born between 1955 and 1974 who worked in schools and were potentially exposed to asbestos that was still present in school buildings even if it was not being installed.

The intention is that Professor Peto's study will identify teachers and former teachers in the proposed age bracket who have had lung operations so that an asbestos count can be taken from lung samples.

Unions have been pushing for asbestos to be removed from schools and it is hoped that this study will assist in assessing what the continuing risk is of asbestos still being present in school buildings. The Government's current policy is that asbestos should be kept in place where it can be managed safely as there may be an increased exposure risk if it is disturbed but a Commons Select Committee called for all asbestos to be totally removed from public buildings within the next 40 years. A government survey in 2019 found that 80.9% of schools said asbestos was present on site.

The study will provide useful insight into whether teachers do face a heightened risk of developing mesothelioma and provide guidance on whether local authority's and their insurers can expect to see a spike in this demographic bringing claims for asbestos related conditions.

For further information please contact Nicola Dawn

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