Call for health screening at cancer-scare schools

More must be done to allay the fears of pupils and staff at the two schools built on a former landfill site, says teaching union

Call for health screening at cancer scare schools

Scotland’s largest teaching union is calling for medical screening to be implemented at the North Lanarkshire schools where staff went out on strike over fears contamination was causing health problems – including bladder cancer – in pupils and teachers.

The call comes in the wake of a report published by a University of Stirling academic yesterday that identified three alleged failings in the independent review ordered by the Scottish government into the concerns over contamination at Buchanan High School and St Ambrose High School in Coatbridge. The school campus was built on a former landfill site.


Background: Report finds no link to illness

Quick read: Teachers strike at 'blue-water' school

Government steps in: Review of ‘blue-water’ schools ordered


The review concluded that the schools were safe and that there was no link between the site and any illness.

However, Professor Andrew Watterson has claimed the review does not offer complete reassurance when it comes to the four current and former teachers at the campus who were diagnosed with bladder cancer. He said it "relied heavily" on a 2002 study, but did not appear to consider subsequent research into landfill and bladder cancer nor fully explain how they came to their conclusion.

Now the EIS is saying screening should be provided for all staff and pupils who want it.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said the screening could be undertaken “fairly cheaply” and “could provide long-overdue reassurance to pupils and staff”.

He added: “The EIS has noted the concerns expressed in the analysis published yesterday by Professor Andrew Watterson of the University of Stirling, over the methodology adopted by the Independent Review group. It is, therefore, even more important that these screening tests should be undertaken to allay fears.  The more obfuscation and delay from the authorities in North Lanarkshire, the more suspicious and anxious the community becomes.”

When schools returned after the summer break over 30 staff at Buchanan High School and St Ambrose High School were out on strike. Their union, NASUWT Scotland, said it was waiting for its own experts’ advice in the wake of the independent review which assessed the site as safe. However, by the end of the week, the staff had returned to work.

The Scottish government said: “The independent review considered a wide range of evidence, including environmental and clinical data, and commissioned new soil, water and air tests. The report provides reassurance that there are no links between ill health and the campus.”

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