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NC school ‘contaminated’ by asbestos

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“Asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused years after the damage from asbestos fibres that get lodged in the lining of the lungs or abdomen."

File photo: David Ritchie / African News Agency (ANA)

CALLS have been made to find alternative classes for pupils at “asbestos contaminated” Delta Park Primary School in Vosburg.

The DA in the Northern Cape said yesterday that it would call on the MEC for Education, Mac Jack, to intervene and urgently find alternative accommodation for pupils at the school.

“Pupils and staff are being exposed to asbestos fibres following damage to asbestos panels in at least four of the pre-primary school classes,” DA spokesperson Dr Allen Grootboom said.

“Asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused years after the damage from asbestos fibres that get lodged in the lining of the lungs or abdomen. Statistics further indicate that nearly 30 percent of all mesothelioma cases in South Africa are tied to environmental exposure, most commonly in the Northern Cape,” Grootboom stated.

He added that it was therefore unacceptable for the Northern Cape Department of Education to continue turning a blind eye to the risks posed by the “asbestos contaminated” school building.

“Drastic steps should be taken to ensure that the children and teachers are no longer exposed to asbestos fibres. The school building should immediately be condemned and alternative accommodation should be sourced.

“At the same time, the asbestos contaminated building needs to be properly rehabilitated, to prevent further contamination of the environment by the loose asbestos particles.

“There can be no excuse for allowing children and adults to be exposed to the hazards of deadly asbestos fibres,” Grootboom said.

The Northern Cape Department of Education yesterday confirmed that there were six ordinary classrooms (including Grade R), a computer room, a laboratory and several storerooms that were constructed from asbestos material at Delta Primary School.

“There are, however, eight classrooms that were constructed from brick and mortar, as well as the administration block. This resulted in the school being classified as a ‘partial replacement’. Therefore, it is being prioritised in outer years (2024/25) for partial replacement, as schools constructed fully from inappropriate material takes preference. If funding becomes available before the planned financial year the school can be re-prioritised,” department spokesperson Geoffrey van der Merwe said.

“The department will, however, conduct maintenance at the facility and an inspector will be sent to evaluate the asbestos panels in order to determine whether the painting of the asbestos panels to contain the asbestos fibres will be viable.”