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Parents warned of ‘low level’ risk of asbestos exposure after discovery at Lancaster school

Ryelands Primary School, Lancaster. Picture: Google Street View
Ryelands Primary School, Lancaster. Picture: Google Street View

Parents have been warned that their children may have had a ‘low level exposure’ to asbestos after it was discovered at a Lancaster school.

The asbestos was discovered at Ryelands Primary School when maintenance work was being carried out over the Easter holidays.

It was disturbed in the kitchen wash room area when workmen drilled through a ceiling tile.

It is understood an electrical firm from Preston had been on the site carrying out wiring and lighting repair work.

Around 20 workmen were in the building when the asbestos discovery was made at the Torrisholme Road site.

A Lancashire County Council spokesman said it has since also come to light that a similar incident happened on the weekend of March 17/18, which means that the children and staff were in school for a week following this asbestos disturbance and there is a potential for low level exposure.

The spokesman said: “We have carried out extensive testing which has confirmed that there was damage to the ceiling in the washroom.

“Monitoring results identified a small amount of asbestos debris located within the wash room area only.

“Given the work undertaken, the short duration and the results of the air testing, it is considered that the exposure levels were below the official HSE’s Control Limits for this material.

“It is also important to note that, the wash room is cleaned daily by kitchen staff and crockery is always placed upside down, further reducing any risk.

“This means that it is unlikely that the incident will cause long term health problems, as the risk of developing an asbestos related disease depends on how much asbestos people are exposed to, for how long and how many different occasions.

“The ceiling material that was drilled into contained levels of asbestos making up 15 per cent of the ceiling material and the asbestos fibres are mostly firmly bound into the cement matrix and not readily made airborne.

“It is not unusual for older buildings to have asbestos within their structure and as long as it is in a safe condition and not disturbed it does not cause any health and safety issues.

“Unfortunately, on this occasion, it has been disturbed by the contractor so we have had to take precautions before reopening the school.

“The ceiling has now been made safe following the disturbance and the ceiling in the washroom will be removed during a future school holiday.”

Experts dealt with the situation immediately, and in accordance with county council procedures a deep clean of the school has taken place.

Air samples have also been taken during the week, to make sure that the school is totally safe, and that there is no risk.

The school has now been certified as safe and fit for occupation.

It is due to reopen on Thursday, and the headteacher Linda Pye held a meeting along with council staff on Wednesday afternoon to discuss parents’ concerns.

The spokesman added: “We are really sorry about any inconvenience that the school being closed has caused and hope that this information does not cause concern.

“Any concerns that you may have can be brought to our attention at the scheduled meetings in school. We are sure you agree that these were exceptional circumstances and the safety of our children and staff is paramount, but thank you for your patience whilst we dealt with this issue.

“We have made sure that the incident has been reported to the Health and Safety Executive and senior managers from Lancashire County Council have been involved including experts in health and safety, the head of design and construction and the asbestos service manager.”