This is Sue Stephens. She was a teacher for almost 30 years. She is dying of mesothelioma.
UPDATE * Sue sadly passed away on Sunday 26th June 2016. *
Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Sue believes that her cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos in the school she taught in.
Sue’s daughter Lucie contacted me yesterday to ask me to sign and retweet a petition she has begun on the 38degrees website to force the government to take action in asbestos in schools. I always do a little research when I receive requests like this, so before I replied I spent a few minutes checking it out. I was shocked by what I found.
Mesothelioma is caused by inhaling asbestos fibres which lodge in the lungs and develop into tumours. It can lie dormant for up to 60 years. Children are more vulnerable to the risk than adults – a child of five has a risk up to 5 times greater than an adult of 30. http://www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk/pdfnewslinks/CHILDREN%20increased%20vulnerability%20to%20asbestos%202%20Nov%2009.pdf
There is no known threshold of exposure below which there is no risk.
Death rates from mesothelioma are disproportionally high amongst teaching and support staff in schools. Female teachers’ deaths are three times higher than one would expect in a profession with little or no asbestos exposure.
Survival rates for mesothelioma are very low, because symptoms do not usually appear until the cancer is advanced. Cancer Research describe the outlook as “poor”. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/mesothelioma/
According to Freedom of Information requests, 86% of schools contain asbestos. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/seven-million-children-risk-asbestos-6126228
Current funding arrangements make it difficult, sometimes impossible, for schools to remove asbestos, as in this article from the Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/may/19/schools-asbestos-buildings-unable-get-rid
Lucie says “Although Mum is now in the last weeks of her life, she is horrified that teachers and pupils continue to be exposed to asbestos in schools. I’ve promised her that I will do my best to make sure no-one else has to suffer like she has.”
To sign Lucie’s petition, please go to – https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/protect-our-children-and-teachers-from-asbestos-exposure-in-schools/?state=sign
More information on Asbestos in Schools and mesothelioma can be found at
Campaigning for the safe removal of asbestos from schools #remove
The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) is a trade union campaign to make all UK schools & colleges safe from the dangers of asbestos
Live Content Curated by top Mesothelioma Influencers
We are an online support and resource for families affected by mesothelioma and campaign for asbestos awareness.