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Letter to Christine Chapman Sobell Centre and Blaengwawr Comprehensive School

Christine Chapman Assembly Member

Cynon Valley

31st October 2015


Dear Ms. Chapman,




As I only had a response from Jackie Fox your PA/Office Manager to above reference, I am concerned at the response you received from Chris Bradshaw Rhondda Cynon Taf Council. I am assuming you have read the response yourself and again would like your comments regarding a building where the volume of asbestos dusts is/was so great it penetrated the exposed internal brickwork.


Your response from Chris Bradshaw references encapsulation claiming the asbestos was impractical to move, nothing is impractical its all down to cost in the long term. So what price is a life in Rhondda Cynon Taf? I am informed that one of the first senior managers who worked at the center made a claim for asbestos related illness, and I know of another person a staff member at the center who died from lung cancer it may not be related to the center but I believe you as a political representative of Cynon Valley should be asking questions.

You would be aware the Labour controlled Assembly said asbestos control is the responsibility of local authorities and not a devolved and the responsibility of the Welsh government an opinion contrary to central government in London.  

Blaengwawr Comprehensive School

I am now informed but I don’t know if it is correct that there were large amounts of asbestos in Blaengwawr Comprehensive School, as you are aware this school has been closed and pupils and staff transferred to the new school at Aberdare. As my two sons and many friends attended worked at the school I am concerned at this new information as the school was built in 1974 when a large volume of asbestos was used in the construction industry.


As I said I am concerned therefore I requested a comprehensive freedom of information request for Blaengwawr Comprehensive School from Rhondda Cynon Taf Council copy below.


Ø  The date when the local authorities were first made aware asbestos was in the building?

Ø   A copy of the first asbestos survey of the building?

Ø  Following the first survey what steps were taken to protect the students and staff from asbestos dust?

Ø  Copy of first risk assessment carried out at the school following the discovery of asbestos?

Ø  A copy of the first asbestos registers?

Ø  A list of how many asbestos surveys have been undertaken at the school

Ø  Copies of the last 2 asbestos surveys undertaken at the school

Ø  Copies of the asbestos management plans

Ø  Following on from the date when the local authorities were first made aware asbestos was in the building how many school staff were referred to and attended asbestos awareness courses?

Ø  How many encapsulated areas of toxic asbestos were/are there in the school?

Ø  How many air samples were taken at the school please supply list result time and date?

Ø  How many asbestos related health claims have been made?


Apparently in 2006 tests were carried out in six schools in Rhondda Cynon Taf that showed that there was a significant release of asbestos fibres when doors were slammed, walls and columns hit and even when people sat on window sills. As you are aware schoolteachers’ mesothelioma deaths continue to increase in Wales.

 You would also be aware that the petitions committee is calling on Minister Huw Lewis AM to give evidence.

 As with schools there would be more significant release of asbestos fibres when doors were slammed, ceilings walls and columns are/were hit at the Sobell Centre due to the nature of the robust sports activities that the centre provided for, as I have said I believe questions should be asked and all information health claims should be made public.

 I await your response


Second Reading

Mesothelioma (Amendment) Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 10:05 am on20th November 2015.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Crossbench  10:37 am, 20th November 2015

My Lords, like others, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Alton on his tireless work in this area and on his perseverance in trying to improve the outlook for the future. I shall concentrate on mesothelioma not as an epidemic of today but as one that is looming because of the problem in our schools. The need for research is ever more pressing as time goes on.

It has been estimated that more than three-quarters of our schools—my noble friend Lord Alton referred to 87% of schools—have asbestos in place. We know that deaths from workplace exposure are more common among healthcare workers, teachers, telephone engineers, shop workers, finance workers and so on. It is estimated that about 20 deaths a year occur among teachers. In healthcare, we are not sure of the exact number of deaths. When I was a junior doctor the lagging was hanging off the pipes in the basement of Westminster Hospital, just across the road from here, and in other hospitals in London in which I worked. To go to cardiac arrests, we would literally run through the dust and sometimes hit our heads on bits of lagging that were hanging down. Everyone was oblivious to the dangers.

The problem is that we have asbestos in our schools and that means children are being exposed. Other countries have decided to have a phased removal—for example, Australia has already implemented that—and the European Parliament has called for the removal of asbestos from all public buildings by 2028. The Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment reported that,

“it is not possible to say whether children are intrinsically more susceptible to asbestos-related injury. However, it is well recognised … that, due to the increased life expectancy of children compared to adults, there is an increased lifetime risk of mesothelioma as a result of the long latency period of the disease … for a given dose of asbestos the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is predicted to be about 3.5 times greater for a child first exposed at age 5 compared to an adult first exposed at age 25 and about 5 times greater when compared to an adult first exposed at age 30 … we conclude that exposure of children to asbestos is likely to render them more vulnerable to developing mesothelioma than exposure of adults to an equivalent asbestos dose”.

The current advice with regard to asbestos is that it should remain undisturbed, and indeed that seems sensible. However, there does not seem to have been a comprehensive assessment of what happens in our schools when children’s chairs and desks scrape along the walls and a little shower of asbestos dust comes into the classroom; or when windows or doors are slammed, not because of children behaving badly but simply because the school is a building with lots of boisterous children in it. Assessments have been done when buildings have been empty.

There is an urgent need for research into why some people develop mesothelioma and others do not, and for long-term epidemiological studies, which take money and investment, to understand what is going on in the long term so that we can plan for it if the numbers are going to go up hugely. In my own field, I have made a plea for us to undertake some research into why mesothelioma causes so much pain, and why it appears to be relatively difficult to manage with straightforward analgesics. In my own hospital, the Velindre Cancer Centre, Dr Jason Lester is doing some innovative research on tumour-associated antigens and their expression on the surface of tumour cells, but that research is not cheap—it cannot be done on a shoestring—and needs dedicated cell lines.

The Asbestos in Schools Steering Group was set up by the Department for Education in 2012. What is its position with regard to academies and free schools in relation to their responsibilities for managing asbestos, and where are the levers that the Department for Education has for managing it? I understand that the Health and Safety Executive produces guidelines for how asbestos should be managed, but the responsibility seems to lie with those who are running the schools themselves.

For us in Wales, this has revealed what you could call the “devolution crack” because no one seems to be taking clear responsibility for schools in Wales. In the Senedd on 28 January this year, the First Minister said:

“The responsibility lies with the Health and Safety Executive; that is quite clear”.

He went on to say that,

“in terms of ensuring that the responsibilities are progressed, that is also a responsibility of the environmental health officers”.

However, that appears to be at odds with Answers that have been given in this House. When the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Wales Office, she answered a Written

Question last year from my noble friend Lord Wigley about responsibility in Wales by saying:

“The Health and Safety Executive has responsibility for regulations and guidance as it applies to the management and control of asbestos in all workplaces in Great Britain, including schools. However, within this framework, the development of policies for the management and control of asbestos in schools is a matter for the Welsh Government”.—[Hansard, 14/1/14, col. WA 11.]

Your Lordships might think that that would be the end of it and it should all sit with Wales, but I suggest that in the long term the devolution crack that has been demonstrated will affect NHS England just as much as NHS Wales. Wales is a net exporter of young people, particularly into the professions, and a net importer of older people. We have a lot of older people coming to spend their last years in nursing homes, particularly in north Wales and along the coastal strips. So Wales may have a problem today but unless there is joint working between those responsible, and unless Wales is invited to join in and share expertise on these committees, we are not going to solve the problem in the long term for the next generation. I also suggest that the confusion over this has been evident in the complaint that was taken to the Parliamentary Ombudsman by Annette Brooke on behalf of the Asbestos in Schools group regarding the conduct of the Health and Safety Executive following the closure of Cwmcarn High School in 2012, the outcome of which is awaited.

This Bill is very important for the future, not only for the health of the whole of our nation—England and Wales joined together—but because it is important to plan expenditure and demand, and to plan how we are going to manage what may be a looming epidemic among our schoolchildren that we have not even begun to take notice of yet.

Petitions Committee 24 November 2015Evidence Session Asbestos in Schools

Just click on section 7 to watch Huw Lewis AM – Minister for Education and Skills provide answers to questions 

A response to AberdareOnline from Christine Chapman Assembly Member Cynon Valley a letter she received from Chris Bradshaw Interim Chef Executive RCTC

A response to Christine Chapman Assembly Member for the Cynon Valley from a letter she wrote to Leighton Andrews AM The Minister for Public Services and copied in Huw Lewis AM no response from Leighton Andrews AM but a response from Huw Lewis AM.


I informed Jackie Fox Christine Chapman’s PA/Office Manager as the Cynon Valley Assembly member has her PA to answer constituents unlike Andrew RT Davies South Wales Central AM who answers himself to questions within a few hours.