Historic Newcastle school holds emergency meeting over asbestos fears

Historic Newcastle school holds emergency meeting over asbestos fears

Concerned parents last night attended an information session at Newcastle East Public School, over news that the school contained asbestos in one of its heritage buildings.

After the discovery, an asbestos hygienist was sent to inspect the school and found asbestos in insulation, although it was not loose-fill and the school grounds were considered safe.

Following the detection of asbestos-containing material in the insulation, several other blocks were tested and asbestos was found to be present. They were then decontaminated, and some sporting equipment and library books were disposed of.

According to the hygienist, “any exposure risk is considered to be very low.”

“However, without historic monitoring data we simply can’t quantify the actual exposure to staff and students — it can really only be [an] estimate.”

The school has had more 2,500 samples collected.

Occupational hygiene expert Nathan Redfern explained to parents last night that the likelihood of low-level asbestos exposure for most people is very common, with the substance present in air, soil and water.

“Most people do not become ill from their exposures,” he said.

“Those who do become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, most often occupationally,” he said.

The samples that were identified as being asbestos on the campus were in a bundle, meaning they were not breathable and they were unlikely to have been breathed in.

The NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell was present at the meeting and apologised to parents, staff and neighbours.

“I understand that there is a lot of distress and I think part of that has been a lack of communication, which I apologise for,” The Minister said.

“What we’ve undertaken to do is any question that has been asked, there will be written documentation provided back to this school community by Wednesday evening.

“Not just to the work that’s happened over the school holidays, but some more historic questions.”


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