University of Glasgow front gates. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

UofG accommodation contains no asbestos, though older buildings on campus do

By Kimberly Mannion

The University of Glasgow has been awarded £2.1m in research funding from Cancer Research UK to tackle Scotland’s ‘painful’ legacy of asbestos. This research project will be carried out in collaboration with the University of Cambridge. 

The presence of asbestos in university buildings has been a concern for a decade since an investigation by The Guardian revealed that 33 out of 88 universities in the UK said their accommodation contained the dangerous material. 

This year, Palatinate, the student newspaper of the University of Durham, found that over 1264 instances of asbestos had been found in Durham’s accommodation, spanning 74 buildings. The Glasgow Guardian submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request regarding the presence of asbestos in University of Glasgow accommodation buildings, which confirmed that no instances had been registered in the last five years. 

Although there are no instances in accommodation, the University of Glasgow’s website states that some of the older buildings on campus contain asbestos, since they were built at a time when it was still widely used. It states, however, that: “Estates have carried out surveys and taken steps to ensure that these materials do not pose a risk to occupants during normal use of our buildings.”

The University ensures buildings with asbestos are managed in a safe way, by no disturbance to the fabric of these buildings being initiated by anyone without previously consulting the estates team. It is institutional policy that no work with asbestos or asbestos containing materials be carried out by staff or students. 

Asbestos is Britain’s leading cause of work-related fatal disease and ill health. Long term exposure to asbestos can cause asbestosis, a serious lung condition. Deaths and ill-health caused by the disease are almost solely caused by incidences of exposure which took place years ago, when asbestos was largely used in the insulation, flooring and roofing of British buildings. The use of the material has been banned in the UK since 1999. There is no cure for the disease, as the damage caused to the lungs is irreversible. 

Professor Daniel Murphy, of the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow and the University of Glasgow, said: “Asbestos exposure has cast a dark shadow over Glasgow and the West Coast of Scotland with incidence rates of mesothelioma significantly higher here than the Scottish average.


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