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Executive dating firms

It sounds horrific, as though hundreds of thousands of children and their teachers are being daily put at risk by exposure to a substance as deadly as anthrax.

But too often the scare stories are based on fiction, not fact.

A few years ago, for example, much publicity was given to a similar bid to alarm Britain's parents.

Second, a new breed of law firm, which specialises in compensation claims and takes a healthy cut from any successful cases, is keen to tout for custom.

They will even pay commissions to trade unions, such as those representing teachers, for any potential 'clients' passed on to them.

The dangers from such products are so vanishingly small - as many scientific studies have shown - that, in the cautious words of a report by the HSE itself, they are 'insignificant'.

The risks of their causing lung cancer are 'arguably zero'.

When Mr Lees's claim was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive - the Government agency responsible for enforcing asbestos regulation - however, it found his belief that 'the number of deaths of primary school teachers from mesothelioma was disproportionately high' was 'not borne out by the facts'.

The death rate among female teachers, it turned out, was no higher than for the rest of the female working population - and was anyway extremely low.

In the past 30 years, it was claimed on Radio 4's Today programme, 178 teachers have died of asbestos-related diseases - and their numbers are rising all the time.

Indeed, according to a new study backed by the teaching unions and cited by the Today programme report, three-quarters of our schools contain asbestos - and almost none of it is being properly 'managed' as the law dictates.

It is now more than 50 years since the iron silicate minerals known as 'blue' and 'brown' asbestos were discovered to be highly dangerous, killing tens of thousands of people in very unpleasant ways.