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REVEALED: Asbestos Still Present at 1,516 Locations Across KCL

Information received under the Freedom of Information Act (2000) shows that ten King’s College London (KCL) locations across London still contain potentially dangerous asbestos.

Where on campus is the asbestos?

All five of the University’s major campuses have the material present, with asbestos also remaining present at two student accommodations and a sports ground. Just under half of the 1,516 total spaces affected are on the Strand campus.

  • Strand campus – 719 spaces across eleven buildings
  • Guy’s campus – 352 spaces across ten buildings
  • Denmark Hill campus – 196 spaces across ten buildings
  • St Thomas’ campus – 156 spaces across three buildings
  • Waterloo campus – 41 spaces across two buildings
  • New Malden sports ground – 22 spaces across two buildings
  • Great Dover Street accommodation – 21 spaces across two floors
  • Champion Hill accommodation – 3 spaces on one floor
  • Off-campus private accommodation – 3 spaces on one floor
  • Stamford Street Apartments accommodation – 2 spaces across two floors

Photos in this article are from K2.40, where reminders to check for asbestos – written with permanent marker on thin strips of duct tape – were first noticed by members of the Roar team in March.

Photo from K2.40 (Strand Campus) showing the text "CHECK SLAB FOR ASBESTOS"
Photo Courtesy of Charles Hinds

What is asbestos?

Asbestos was used as a building material prior to the turn of the century due to its low thermal and electrical conductivity. However, it was banned in new-build properties in the UK over medical side effects in 1999.

Exposure can have serious health impacts when the block is broken, as tiny strands damage the cardiovascular system and act as a carcinogen. Around 5,000 deaths each year in the UK are linked to asbestos exposure. The Health and Safety Executive states that “people who work in older buildings could still be exposed to asbestos fibres today if asbestos is not managed effectively, and is damaged or disturbed”.

How concerning is this?

There is no indication that the asbestos material in King’s buildings is currently dangerous to students. The University employs an external contractor to handle all asbestos removals. This only needs to occur when the substance “is in poor condition or is likely to be damaged during the normal use of the building”.

However, the pervasiveness of the material does suggest that thousands of KCL sites have not undergone serious repair work for over two decades. Late last year, the University of Manchester redeveloped some of its student accommodation to remove all legacy material. A recent Strand redevelopment did include the removal of asbestos.

What has King’s told Roar?

Roar asked King’s College London what share of asbestos sites are of grade 10 or above on official health and safety inspections, considered likely potential to release fibres, and they clarified that there are none.

A King’s College London spokesperson said: “We take asbestos management very seriously, and as per our comprehensive Asbestos Management Plan, we continually monitor its condition across all our campuses to ensure that any instances are dealt with properly and we reduce risk to the lowest practical level. All redevelopment projects have a review of the presence of asbestos materials before they start and where it is identified, the project will include necessary remedial or removal works as appropriate.”

Editor’s note: This article was amended at 10:00 on 13/06/2024 to include the statement from KCL.

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