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  1. ITV Report

Children pulled out of schools built on toxic landfill site after pupils test positive for high levels of arsenic

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

Concerned parents are pulling their children out of schools in Scotland and teachers are expected to strike after several pupils showed up to six times higher levels of arsenic in their blood.

It comes after four teachers had been diagnosed with a rare bladder cancer and another pupil had been removed from one of the schools after more than a year of sickness.

Calls to close two schools pending investigation, in North Lanarkshire, built on a toxic landfill site are growing after a boy went blind and tests revealed levels of arsenic in his system three times that of normal levels.

Autistic first-year pupil Tommi Morgan lost his eyesight just three months after starting at Buchanan High in Scotland.

Tommi Morgan and his mother Josie outside hospital. Credit: ITV News

Two SNP councillors are now demanding North Lanarkshire Council to shut both St Ambrose High and Buchanan High schools in Coatbridge for tests, despite reassurances the site is safe.

Kirsten Larson and Allan Stubbs said the schools should remain closed until a Scottish Government review is complete, after reports a second child was found with high levels of arsenic in their system.

The girl affected has been taken out of S3 (the third year) at St Ambrose and enrolled at another school.

Tommi Morgan's level of Arsenic in his body are three times that of normal levels. Credit: ITV News

The girl’s mother, who's asked not to be identified, told STV News: "For at least a year, my daughter has been unwell with extreme fatigue, sickness and pains in her eyes, legs and stomach.

"Despite repeated tests, no-one knew what the problem was."

She continued: "It was only when press stories began to emerge about the school that I told her hospital consultant and he immediately ordered fresh testing which revealed high levels of arsenic in her system.

"She tested at around levels six times the expected level and the consultant was very concerned.

"We were horrified but in some ways we are lucky because we have some answers.

"Many other parents have not had access to these tests so they cannot make an informed decision about what is best for their children.

"It's been a living nightmare."

Blue water had appeared to flow from taps within the school. Credit: ITV News
  • 'Blue water' worries

Concerns were initially raised over blue water at the £44m campus that opened in 2012.

Blue water is caused by copper pipes and is not regarded as harmful but the council replaced the pipes with plastic.

However, parents say they are also concerned about metal industry and household waste buried beneath the school and some believe this has caused their children to become ill.

A bottle of blue water filled from the taps within the school in North Lanarkshire. Credit: ITV News

After it emerged that four teachers had been diagnosed with rare bladder cancer, the council and NHS Lanarkshire tried to reassure parents at a public meeting on June 6.

Officials told a crowd of around 300 there is no evidence linking the site with ill health.

However, many parents are still worried and have kept their children away from the schools while the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) union members begin strike action on Thursday.

Member of Scottish Parliament Alex Neil has called for the schools to shut. Credit: PA

MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) Alex Neil called for the schools to shut before securing an independent review by Education Minister John Swinney, who acknowledged "a number of significant concerns raised by families, teachers and elected representatives".

Mr Neil and parents are due to meet the review team to discuss what should happen but several are demanding that pupils and parents should be offered medical tests.

Mr Neil said: "I think the review team should move quickly to decide whether it should be closed.

"We want them to test all the pupils and the staff as well and are seeking an urgent meeting between them and parents."

  • What have the council said?

In response to the claims, a North Lanarkshire Council spokesperson said: "NHS Lanarkshire has no reported cases of toxic arsenic in the area.

"Non-toxic form of arsenic occurs naturally in certain foods, such as fish and shellfish, rice and other foods and drinks.

"These can cause temporary increases in blood arsenic. However, this is a natural occurrence and is unrelated to attendance at school."

In response to the councillors' request, the council added: "An emergency motion has not been lodged for the council meeting."