Universities reveal asbestos in student halls

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Universities have been warned to pay particular attention to asbestos management, after it emerged that thousands of rooms in halls of residence contain the substance.

A Freedom of Information request by BBC Wales found that around 3,000 student bedrooms at Cardiff, Aberystwyth and the University of Wales Trinity St David have asbestos containing materials.

There is no legal requirement to remove asbestos if it is in a safe condition and as the asbestos in the rooms is regarded by the three universities as being low risk, they chose not to inform students of its presence.

Dr Emrys Evans, of the British Lung Foundation Wales, said that as only around a quarter of people are able to identify asbestos, it was wrong not to tell the students about it.

"Exposure can often occur unwittingly, and so wherever people live or work they should reliably be informed of the presence of asbestos. Not to do so is reckless," he told the BBC.

Beth Button, president of the National Union of Students Wales, described the widespread presence of asbestos in halls of residence as “concerning”.

“We strongly encourage institutions to take this issue seriously and put the safety of students first, whilst ensuring they remain completely transparent with students about the standards of their accommodation,” she added.

Asbestos was widely used in public buildings constructed in the second half of the 20th century, so councils, education authorities, NHS trusts and other public sector bodies need proper asbestos surveys and effective management plans.

For more information about asbestos surveys, please contact BLS Asbestos.

Published: 20th August 2014