Schools health risk

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The Independent Online
Teachers and pupils at secondary schools across the country could be at risk from a controversial fibreboard widely used in craft lessons, a teaching union is warning.

The National Association of Schoolmasters-Union of Women Teachers yesterday advised members to avoid any work with medium density fibreboard (MDF) which could produce dust until their schools proved they had assessed the risk involved.

The warning came after fresh concerns were raised over the dangers of minute dust particles produced when MDF, made by bonding wood fibres with resins and bonding agents, is cut or sanded.

Research by NASUWT member Dr Michael Flannery suggested that the dust particles produced by MDF may be much smaller than previously thought, allowing greater penetration into lung tissue.

There are also concerns over the effects of formaldehyde, used in the bonding agent and released into the atmosphere when MDF is cut.

The NASUWT advises members to insist their employers conduct an urgent safety review to ensure workshop ventilation and equipment such as dust masks are up to standard.

Les Roberts, assistant secretary, said: "Most secondary schools in the country will be using this material and we are saying employers should be looking at safety precautions. At the moment the jury is still out on the effects of MDF but it is looking pretty bad."

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