‘More clarity needed on Cwmcarn school asbestos test’ - union

First published in News

A TEACHERS' union representative wants more clarity on the test used at Cwmcarn High School on which a decision was taken to close the school.

NASUWT Wales organiser Rex Phillips said he wrote to Caerphilly council’s director of education on Monday night expressing his concern about the decision on which to close the school.

He told the Argus he would have made exactly the same decision having read the report but said it was a "very big decision" to close the school and now wants the Health and Safety Executive to look at the test used by a contractor at the school.

Mr Phillips said he believed the usual safety limit used by companies is 0.1 fibres per cubic centimetres of air and that the results should not exceed this.

He said Caerphilly council told staff that when they test their schools they used a test against 0.01 fibres per cubic centimetres of air which is a lower threshold.

But he said it transpired on Monday that the contractor used at Cwmcarn High School used an even lower threshold of 0.0005 fibres per cubic centimetres of air.

Mr Phillips said he wrote to the Health and Safety Executive today asking them for clarity on the test used.

He said this test is a very low threshold but said nobody can say what is significant in terms of particles when it comes to asbestos.

Mr Phillips said: "It’s no doubt that there is a significant amount of building products used in the school which contain asbestos. "

"I’m not going to minimise the dangers of exposure to asbestos because no one can say what the safe levels are."

"It’s a difficult situation. We can’t be complacent and don’t want to be alarmist."

He said the council knew asbestos was present at Cwmcarn High School and that asbestos was even removed from the school in the summer.

Mr Phillips said he is also aware that Caerphilly council knows about asbestos being present in 30 other schools in the authority.

Mr Phillips said that depending on how the HSE now respond, he will be pressing for an assurance that this same test will be used at these 30 schools as well.

He said he believed asbestos is currently being removed from other schools in the authority but that these school buildings have not been closed.

He said: "We want our members and children to be taught in the safest possible environment.

He said the union’s members are also concerned about the health and welfare of the pupils but are equally concerned about how they can get on with educating their pupils and to try to find alternative accommodation for them as a school.

He said: "The last thing we would want to see is them sent to other schools in the authority where this 0.0005 test has not been applied."

Mr Phillips said there now needs to be more transparency on the situation from Caerphilly council.

He said: "They’re probably saying they don’t want to be alarmist but there needs to be transparency.

"You can’t be more alarmist than taking a decision at 3pm to close the school."

Comments (2)

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3:43pm Tue 16 Oct 12

ChicagoWelsh says...

0.01 f/cc is normal for a clearance (background level) for a school. However this sounds like the samples were analysed via phase contrast microscopy, which cannot cannot differentiate between asbestos and non-asbestos fibers.
A better test for the school would be samples analysed via transmission electron microscopy which has higher magnifications, enabling identification of smaller asbestos fibers than can be seen by other techniques. A level of 70 asbestos structures per square millimeter is generally considered to be the clearance level in the US at least.
0.01 f/cc is normal for a clearance (background level) for a school. However this sounds like the samples were analysed via phase contrast microscopy, which cannot cannot differentiate between asbestos and non-asbestos fibers. A better test for the school would be samples analysed via transmission electron microscopy which has higher magnifications, enabling identification of smaller asbestos fibers than can be seen by other techniques. A level of 70 asbestos structures per square millimeter is generally considered to be the clearance level in the US at least. ChicagoWelsh
  • Score: 0

5:06pm Thu 18 Oct 12

SY1234 says...

We need transparency and accountability. We need to know exactly what risk the staff and children were put at and who is accountable for the whole fiasco. I have two children in the school and I want to be assured that my children are not in any danger of becoming ill in later life as a result of this. The only way to do that is to publish the asbestos levels test results and if they are over the limit, then check our children and hopefully give us all some peace of mind.
We need transparency and accountability. We need to know exactly what risk the staff and children were put at and who is accountable for the whole fiasco. I have two children in the school and I want to be assured that my children are not in any danger of becoming ill in later life as a result of this. The only way to do that is to publish the asbestos levels test results and if they are over the limit, then check our children and hopefully give us all some peace of mind. SY1234
  • Score: 0

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