Schools may have been supplied dangerous equipment, potentially exposing students and staff to poisonous gas during science lessons, The Telegraph has reported
Secondary schools and colleges in the UK have been sent a letter from the Department for Education, ordering them to remove bunsen burner gauze mats as they are believed to contain asbestos, The Telegraph reports.
The banned products, used on top of Bunsen burners, may have been in circulation since the 1970s; the two companies responsible have not been named.
In the letter, the DfE said: “Remove current supplies from use until you have established whether the gauze used in your school or college has been provided from an asbestos-free source.”
It directed them to the website of school science advisory service CLEAPSS, where they should follow the advice “with immediate effect”.
“We appreciate that following these steps may affect your school or college’s delivery of the science curriculum and science departments may need to reschedule practical science lessons until such time that they can secure a fresh supply of gauzes,” the letter says. “The safety of staff and students is of the utmost importance.”
Schools have been told to prevent “access to cupboards or drawers where gauzes are stored by sealing them securely with tape”.
Headteachers who did not know whether they had dangerous gauzes have been told to “respond as if at least some of them” were. The items must be disposed of as if they were hazardous waste.
Chris Keates, General Secretary teaching union NASUWT, has written to Damian Hinds, the school’s minister, to demand the names of the two suppliers be made public to relieve the “anxiety and distress” of staff, pupils and parents. “It beggars belief that this situation has been allowed to happen for so long, possibly as far back as 1976,” she said.
Read the full story here
Also reported on the HSE website