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Asbestos problem in 23 percent of schools studied – Belgium

Flemish minister Joke Schauvliege (CD & V) had a preliminary asbestos inventory made in 300 schools last year. In May 2017 it appeared that 20 schools had an urgent asbestos problem. Flemish member of parliament Johan Danen (Groen) asked for an update of the figures and the problem appears even bigger: Schauvliege's answer shows that 69 of the 300 schools with an urgent asbestos problem ultimately

According to the Minister, all schools already received a mailing from OVAM twice to take action and to register to discuss the remediation. But about one third of the schools did not yet, Danen complains.

The opposition party sp.a also thinks that 'unacceptable'. 'We call on all mayors to request the data for the schools on their territory from OVAM', according to Flemish MP Caroline Gennez. 'Asbestos is an insidious poison and therefore has no place in our schools. When school boards themselves do not intervene, it is up to the mayors to do so, 'says Gennez.

Many school buildings in Flanders have still painted asbestos cements or central heating pipes containing asbestos. In case of damage to the material, students and teachers are at great risk. Last Monday, the Xaverius College in Borgerhout was evacuated after working on a pipe containing asbestos.

'Around asbestos, unfortunately, there is a false sense of security', says Johan Danen. 'That is because the health consequences of contact with asbestos only become visible after 20 to 40 years. It is urgent that we take action. Certainly with regard to asbestos in schools: it concerns the safety of thousands of teachers and pupils who are completely senselessly exposed to major dangers. We must not allow asbestos to ruin the life of the next generation. The school must be a safe and healthy environment for everyone. "

Groen advocates the establishment of an asbestos removal fund at Flemish level, a Flemish asbestos reporting and support center, free screenings, a financial compensation for the removal of asbestos. , a ban on asbestos roofs from 2030 and a well-secured receiving installation for asbestos in container parks. Also more powers for OVAM, which can force schools to take action, is an interesting option.

The Flemish government previously announced a plan to make Flanders asbestos-free by 2040. The government also released 7.5 million euros for asbestos removal in schools. Based on the sample in 300 schools, Minister of Education Hilde Crevits (CD & V) wants to get started now.

Crevits: 'We have already concluded some agreements with the education networks, and we can activate these agreements on the basis of the report. We can now use the 7.5 million euros to be able to remove asbestos in those 300 schools in the short and medium term. "

According to Minister Crevits, there was consultation between OVAM on 22 February. and the educational umbrella organizations to discuss the results of the sample and to flesh out a plan of approach. 'This week we are together again, the two cabinets, the OVAM and AGION to determine what the follow-up is on this inventory. The question is, among other things, how we can extend this to the other schools. "

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