SCIENCE Departments in Powys secondary schools  have been advised to stop using metal gauze due to asbestos concerns.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been made aware that two UK laboratory companies have supplied schools with gauze mats which contain asbestos.

The metal gauze mats are designed for use over Bunsen burners.

Inhaling asbestos fibres can cause serious and fatal illnesses including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, and can take 20 to 30 years before symptoms are detected.

The HSE say they have ensured that both of the supply companies have stopped supplying the gauze mats and are overseeing arrangements to contact affected customers and provide precautionary advice on how the mats should be disposed of safely.

A spokesperson for HSE, said: “We are also investigating how these particular gauze mats came into circulation.

"Breaches of the restrictions on the supply of asbestos are taken very seriously by HSE.”

Teaching union NASUWT has contacted Wales Government Cabinet Secretary, Kirsty Williams, to draw her attention to the issue.

Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary, said:  “While it is to be welcomed that the HSE Executive has highlighted this major hazard to the health of children and young people and all those who work on school sites, it is unacceptable that the two suppliers involved have not been named.

“The NASUWT believes that the suppliers must be named immediately not only to enable schools to identify if they have used the suppliers and therefore may have this potentially deadly material on site."

A spokesman for PCC said: "We are aware of this issue.

"We have sent guidance produced by the HSE and CLEAPSS (Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services) which explains what action a school should carry out which includes stop using all gauzes and prevent their further use within the science department.

"Any gauzes should be removed from labs, double bagged and stored securely ready for it to be disposed of correctly."