The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have released the latest mesothelioma statistics for the Education Sector.
Mesothelioma is a formally rare form of cancer that principally affects the pleura (the external lining of the lung) and the peritoneum (the lining of the lower digestive tract). Many cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed at an advanced stage as symptoms are non-specific and appear late in the development of the disease. It is almost always fatal with most of those affected usually dying within twelve months of diagnosis.
Asbestos is responsible for causing the vast majority of mesothelioma cases in Great Britain. There are currently about five times as many deaths in men as there are in women each year. This is largely a reflection of the fact that past asbestos exposures that caused many of these deaths tended to occur in occupational settings, and in jobs mainly held by men rather than women.
Although still caused by asbestos, a minority of currently occurring female deaths are directly attributable to occupational exposures. The continuing increase in annual mesothelioma deaths is a consequence of the effect of past exposures and the long latency period of the disease (i.e. the time between initial exposure to asbestos and the manifestation of mesothelioma) which is typically between 30 and 40 years.
The Proportional Mortality Ratio (PMR) for female primary school teachers for 2002-2010 is 118.6, which is about three times greater had there been no asbestos exposure. This compares to a PMR of 85 for female nurses.
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 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.
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.
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