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4th November 2013

Students not told about asbestos in halls of residence

Freedom of information request reveals a number of residences contain deteriorated asbestos

Thousands of students at Manchester were living in halls containing asbestos until 2012.

Some students are still unknowingly living among asbestos, as eight of the residences which were identified as containing deteriorated asbestos have not yet undergone work to remove it.

An Asbestos Management Survey in 2011 identified 60 university residences which contained asbestos that had deteriorated and needed work.

In Fallowfield these included Owens Park Tower Block, all of Oak House, Tree Court, Little Court, Mall Block, Green Court, the Armitage Centre, Cavendish House, Spencer House, Morley Building and Lindsay House.

In Victoria Park these included Birley, Greenworth, Houldsworth, Oaklands and Plymouth in Hulme Hall, and all of Dalton Ellis.

And in Whitworth Park the residences identified included Aberdeen House, Burleigh House, Derby House, Dilworth House and Garstang House.

Several students have expressed outrage that they were not made aware of the asbestos in their halls.

Monique Davis, a fourth year French and Italian student who was a resident in Tower Block 2010-2011, said: “knowing that the university is still yet to inform me that my halls contained asbestos is perhaps more worrying than finding out it was there in the first place.

“They have a duty to inform us about something as serious and potentially dangerous as this.

“We pay a lot of money to be provided with safe and appropriate accommodation. It seems clear that the university has abused their position of trust.”

Although asbestos in good condition is harmless if left undisturbed, when damaged it can be very dangerous.

Breathing in asbestos dust can cause severe and sometimes fatal lung conditions such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and absestosis.

According to the British Lung Foundation, many of these conditions can lie dormant for years, or even decades, before they materialise.

Asbestos is still the single greatest cause of work related deaths in the UK, killing around 4,500 people every year.

The material was banned at the end of 1999, but was widely used for insulation, flooring and roofing before its dangers were known. As such, any buildings constructed before the year 2000 may still contain asbestos.

In a statement to The Mancunion, a University spokesman said, “Like other universities, we have a statutory duty to ensure our premises comply with strict health and safety regulations, including those relating to asbestos.

“The University’s Asbestos Management Team has an effective, robust and efficient system for the management and control of asbestos as set out in our Asbestos Management Plan, which is freely available to view online.

They added, “The University buildings that contain asbestos, including halls of residence, have been fully inspected according to national guidelines and pose the lowest possible risk to staff and students. We take student welfare extremely seriously and work continues across campus to remove or manage any last remaining asbestos.”

Eight residences remain that have not yet been cleared of asbestos.

These residences are Allen Hall, Ashburn Hall, Broomcroft House, Dilworth House, Green House, Grosvenor Place, St Anselm’s Hall and Wright Robinson. All except Allen Hall remain in use.

Jack Griffith, a first year Chemical Engineering student living in Wright Robinson halls, told The Mancunion: “I actually had no idea there was any asbestos in the building, as far as I’m aware we haven’t been informed about it.

“I have no problem with it, as I know it’s only harmful when inhaled, but I think it would have been nice to be told about it so I’m aware that it’s there.”

Dom May, a first year Geography student also in Wright Robinson, said: “they should have told us, even though I am aware that it causes us little trouble… we still had a right to know.

“You would want to know if your house had asbestos in it so why weren’t we told that our flat had it in?”

In response to a Freedom of Information Request from The Mancunion, the University said, “As part of the University’s asbestos management plan and following the introduction of legislation, we are required to assess the condition of asbestos products and to re-inspect asbestos items which have previously been identified.

“Following this type of condition assessment, certain items were identified as having deteriorated therefore these were identified as requiring work to be undertaken.”

They added, “Various asbestos surveys have been undertaken within these building prior to 2011. Asbestos management surveys did not come into existence until 2010 when new guidance was issued from the HSE.

“There is no legal requirement to fully re-survey buildings for which asbestos information is available.

“However the University undertakes this as it provides an additional quality check on the existing information and provides a more up to date record following various building lay-out changes”.

Although the University began a programme which has removed and managed asbestos in 52 residences since 2012, the programme is not due for completion until summer 2014.

Re-inspection surveys are due to commence in February 2014

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