A key part of the Australian science curriculum is learning about rocks and minerals present within the country and around the world. In many cases, schools share this information through the use of mineral kits that contain small samples of particular elements.
However, in recent weeks, the safety of these mineral kits in the Australian school system has been questioned. According to a safety alert from the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, a number of mineral kits (dating back to the 1970s) have been found to contain asbestos rock samples which could pose a threat to school children and teachers.
The safety alert applies to any mineral kit that features asbestos, but in many cases, the material is listed under a different name such as serpentine, amosite, tremolite, chrysotile and leucotile. As a result of this alert, the agency is calling for all schools and learning facilities to check their mineral kits for traces of asbestos and remove from use, if present.
Following procedure key
Given the risk that asbestos-related material poses, especially if disturbed, schools are warned not to assume that their mineral kits are asbestos free. As such, the agency has described a particular process to ensure mineral kits are up to standard.
This includes suspending use of all geological kits which haven’t been certified as asbestos free and contacting the supplier to check its status. If your education facility doesn’t know where the samples were sourced from, the kit can be disposed as asbestos waste or independently tested.
“Before purchasing kits or samples, schools should request certification confirming that the product has been tested and does not contain asbestos. Document this instruction for any future acquisitions,” the safety alert read.
Is this fear unfounded?
While the exposure risk might seem low in this situation, the situation should be treated very seriously. This was highlighted in a case at Tasmania’s St Finn Barr’s Catholic Primary School in September.
The Educator reported that during a science activity, a number of year five and six students were using a mineral kit which contained leucotile. The situation only came to light when a parent who is a geologist inspected the rock samples.
In an article from the ABC, it was revealed that a total of 11 students were exposed at a low level to the asbestos and were protected by gloves and used tweezers. This was standard policy, but Tasmanian Catholic Education Office director John Mula was surprised to learn the mineral kit had already been recalled in both Queensland and Victoria.
Asbestos compensation claims in NSW
Under New South Wales law, you are entitled to claim compensation on many dust-related conditions including asbestos and Mesothelioma. The claim can be made irrelevant of the time of exposure, be it yesterday or even 30 years ago.
For more information, get in touch with the compensation lawyers at Gerard Malouf Partners today.