Fixing crumbling concrete in schools could trigger an asbestos crisis, experts have warned.

There are fears that replacing the potentially dangerous reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) found in more than 100 schools could disturb cancer-causing asbestos.

Figures released by the Department for Education (DfE) in 2019 revealed asbestos is present in four in five schools in England.

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As many as 24,000 school buildings are estimated to be beyond their initial design life, the National Audit Office said earlier this summer.

In July teachers’ union the NASUWT called for the urgent prioritisation of the removal of asbestos from school buildings.

One asbestos disease expert question whether crumble-risk RAAC could disturb or damage nearby asbestos and release potentially deadly fibres to escape.

Lorna Webster, lawyer at asbestos disease lawyers Hodge, Jones & Allen, said: “It is a serious concern that there is crumbling concrete within schools and hospital buildings but, as we have known for many years, asbestos materials are present in a significant number of UK schools and hospital premises and yet this doesn’t seem to be a priority to be dealt with.

“We know more than 80% of schools have asbestos materials within them. TUC research found two-thirds of NHS buildings surveyed contained asbestos materials.

“Exposure to asbestos fibres will cause mesothelioma - a fatal asbestos-related cancer - in some people, and so it is important that the danger posed by the presence of asbestos materials within schools and hospitals is addressed properly and seriously.

“It also begs the question as to whether damage due to premises as a result of the crumbling concrete will also disturb or damage nearby asbestos materials, which in turn will potentially allow deadly asbestos fibres to escape into the school or hospital environment.

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“Continued exposure to asbestos dust will mean continued mesothelioma deaths to innocent people – it has to stop, and the presence of asbestos materials within schools, hospitals and other public buildings must be addressed properly by the Government.”

Speaking on Sunday, the Chancellor said the Government would act “whether it is RAAC or the wider asbestos issue”, promising to “do what it takes to keep children safe”.

He told Sunday with Trevor Phillips on Sky News: “We have 22,000 schools in the country and there has been since that incident a huge programme going through this RAAC/asbestos issue because we want to be absolutely sure that every child is safe.”