Asbestos levels at Cwmcarn school could be ‘much lower’ than first thought
ASBESTOS levels at a Valleys school closed over health fears could be much lower than once thought, a new report reveals.
The Health and Safety Executive arranged for the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) to carry out testing at Cwmcarn High School, after an earlier investigation by Santia Asbestos Management Ltd suggested asbestos debris in the ceiling voids was responsible for above average concentrations of airborne asbestos fibres in classrooms.
Overall it concluded there was no evidence of a "quantifiable transfer" of asbestos fibres and found average concentrations in the occupied areas of the school were very low.
It added they were many times lower than those Santia measured and were well below the recognised limit of 0.0001 fibres per millilitre.
Instead the amounts were similar to those found in background levels in the atmosphere.
Attempts to disturb the fibres through opening doors and windows found again found levels remained below the level of quantification.
HSL said methods used by Santia were not accurate in counting asbestos fibres because it assumed all fibres present in the samples taken were asbestos, when in a school setting they could include paper, clothing, skin cell, school chalk and plasterboard fibres.
It added the only way the fibres could be correctly identified, as asbestos would be via electron microscopy.
The report said the presence of asbestos fibres was only a concern if they become airborne and are inhaled. Even then the probability of chance that any ill health would occur is very small, it said.
Caerphilly council has now agreed to pay for a management survey to be completed at the site in the next three weeks to decide whether pupils and teachers currently being housed at the former Coleg Gwent campus in Ebbw Vale can return to the site.
Chairman of governors, Gary Thomas said he was pleased the council was working with the school so they could agree a plan for the future.
A council spokesman said: "We are hopeful that a suitable solution can be found in respect of the problems at the school site and the council are anxious to work with the Governors and the head teacher on this issue.
"The council’s main priority remains and will continue to be the welfare and education of the children attending school at Cwmcarn."
One parent said the upheaval of the school had hit children hard.
He said: "It’s caused torment for the parents and for the children, they’ve had to have health counselling all based on the Santia report that now is completely at odds with the HSL report."