Asbestos is still present in some 80% of the Flemish schools in Brussels, according to Schoolgroep Brussel (SGB), the group representing the education system of the Flemish Community, Belga reports.
The group keeps an inventory of asbestos in schools, which is updated every year. It has around 100 schools under its responsibility, of which six schools in 2019 had asbestos removed. The substance is now known to be carcinogenic, but was widely used as a fire retardant in construction – of homes as well as public buildings – as late as the 1990s.
“There is no fixed plan for removing asbestos from buildings,” Karin Struys, spokesperson for the SGB, told Bruzz. “Whenever there’s a risk then of course immediate removal is carried out. And in cases of renovations, big or small, asbestos is always removed.”
The process of removing asbestos is in itself extremely dangerous as it releases fibres into the air, so it is always carried out by specialist contractors.
Protection at present takes two forms. First, the inventory is kept up to date each year, and can be consulted by prevention experts from the SGB. Second, prevention advisers within schools undergo training in how to recognise asbestos and how to deal with it. But the question of how to deal with it costs money.
“Even small-scale renovations cost the school group about €70,000 a year just for the removal of asbestos,” Struys said. “And the group can count on only 50% subsidies from the community education system. Unfortunately we don’t get the kind of extra financial support from OVAM [the public waste agency in Flanders] that school groups in Flanders enjoy. It would be a good thing if [Brussels environment agency] Leefmilieu Brussel could pay out extra subsidies to the Dutch-speaking community schools in Brussels.”
Figures for the schools falling under the responsibility of the Catholic education system were not available, Belga said.