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Asbestos in Schools

School teachers’ mesothelioma deaths continue to increase.



This Paper was updated on 17 January 2015 - Click on this link to see the updated paper

The latest mesothelioma statistics for the Education Sector have been obtained from the HSE under the Freedom of Information Act. (1)

  • In 2012 there were 22 school teachers’ deaths from mesothelioma.
  • The number dying has increased from 3 a year in 1980 and 16 in 2011.
  • 291 school teachers have died of mesothelioma since 1980.
  • 177 have died since 2001.


  • The Proportional Mortality Ratio for female primary school teachers for 2002-2010 is 118.6 which is about three times greater had there been no asbestos exposure. (2)
  • This compares to a PMR of 85 for female nurses. (There are a similar number of female nurses as there are teachers.)

See the HSE mesothelioma statistics 2001-2010. (3)

  • The PMR for male secondary teachers for 2002-2010 is 66.
  • This compares to 48 for doctors and 46 for solicitors.
  • The statistics show that in outdoor occupations the PMRs are far lower at 17 for farm workers and 24 for forestry workers.
  • In 2012 two school secretaries and four teaching assistants died of mesothelioma.
  • There are no statistics for school caretakers, cleaners or cooks as the number of deaths in these occupations are for all workplaces and not just schools.

For every teacher there are 20-30 children, and they are more vulnerable to exposure to asbestos. It is estimated that between 200-300 people will die each year from their asbestos exposure as a child at school. (4)  

The statistics add to the evidence that people are being exposed to asbestos in buildings.
Teaching is an occupation where one should expect minimal or no asbestos exposure.
The statistics show there has been a significant, and increasing, exposure to asbestos in schools.

Comment: HSE are profoundly wrong in their advice to the Government that the risks from asbestos in schools are “very low.” (5)


(1) HSE/Lees  Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2014100437 24 Nov 2014
(2) HSE Mesothelioma occupation statistics male and female deaths aged 16-74 1980-2000  page 5 Interpretative
(3) HSE Mesothelioma Occupation Statistics  Male and female deaths aged 16-74 in Great Britain 2002-2010 Mar 2013
(4) Education Select Committee hearing asbestos in schools 13 Mar 2013 Q 13 . Personal correspondence Professor Peto/Lees  3 May 2013
(5) Meeting Minister of State for Schools David Laws/ AiS 19 Nov 2013. Lees contemporaneous notes

Michael Lees
30th November 2014