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Students Sleeping In Asbestos Bedrooms At University Without Knowing

29/08/2013 14:09 BST | Updated 29/08/2013 14:14 BST

Students are not being told they sleep in death traps as last year 17,000 slept in bedrooms which contained the "hidden killer" asbestos, it has been revealed.

Universities have admitted keeping students in the dark about the dangerous substance, meaning many may not report damaged asbestos as they do not even know it is there, Freedom of Information requests by the Guardian have shown.

Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK, according to the government, causing around 4,500 fatalities a year. If inhaled, asbestos fibres can cause serious and sometimes fatal diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has expressed its concern about the extent of asbestos in university rooms.

A spokesperson said: "ATL has campaigned hard for a national audit to check for the presence and state of asbestos in all education establishments and for its safe removal. This discovery shows how necessary and urgent this is.

"We call on the government to take immediate action to ensure these bedrooms are checked, made safe and have the asbestos removed."

Of the 88 universities who responded to the Guardian's request, 38 confirmed they are providing students with rooms containing asbestos. Warwick University was the worst offender, having 2,313 bedrooms with asbestos in.

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A spokesperson for the university said: "The material containing asbestos in these rooms is fully sealed and completely safe, fully in line with all statutory requirements and good practice. We have a range of systems in place to ensure any damage in student accommodation is dealt with promptly, including a very active residential warden and tutor scheme."

The Health and Safety Executive, a public body concerned with workplace safety, added: "All universities must ensure they have effective arrangements in place to manage the risks so that staff and students are not exposed to asbestos fibres.

"As long as asbestos is managed in compliance with the legal requirements and according to the HSE's published guidance, there is no significant risk in leaving it in place."

The NUS was unavailable for comment when called by HuffPost UK.

If you are concerned about your safety, the HSE can be contacted on: 0300 003 1747