Asbestos was used in the construction industry for many decades because of its resistance to fire and utility as an insulator. The use of the naturally occurring carcinogen didn’t slow down until the 1970s and 1980s, when federal regulators began to limit the ways that asbestos could be used. This happened because in the mid-1960s it was found that exposure to asbestos could cause malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis, however, it is still not banned entirely in the U.S. Due to its once widespread use, asbestos still exists in a great deal of older buildings in America, including schools, where the impact of the substance could have serious health consequences for the nation’s youth.
Asbestos in U.S. Schools
Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey, is currently dealing with such issues. According to the Times of Trenton, the school has a number of serious problems including a dilapidated roof, radiators that don’t function properly, some troublesome electrical issues and leaky and rotten pipes sandwiched between asbestos containing walls.
The news source reports that Governor Chris Christie announced that 10 schools across the state would be eligible to receive funding from the Schools Development Authority, which is in charge of constructing schools in disadvantaged areas. However, Trenton Central is not one of the schools on that list.
The school has been slated to be replaced, according to the news provider, but budget realities that the Garden State is facing make such a solution appear to be far off. In the meantime, students, teachers and staff will continue to be forced to go to a school that is badly in need of repair, according to the Times. In addition, asbestos lurks in the walls and if it is disturbed it can cause asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, which the National Cancer Institute estimates affects 2,500 new Americans every year.
The direct presence of asbestos in the walls of a school isn’t the only way that the mineral can affect students and staffers as one Massachusetts school recently found out.
Massachusetts Department of Public Works employees are currently monitoring asbestos levels at the Hadley Elementary School after concerns were raised that a fire at a neighboring structure may have allowed the deadly mineral fibers to become airborne and blown towards the school, according to the Daily Item.
Local Fire Chief Kevin Breen told the news source that workers would check asbestos levels at the line between the two properties twice daily to make sure that the carcinogen wasn’t coming into an area where it could potentially be inhaled by a student. Such inhalation is what ultimately causes diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma.
“Trained personnel will be on site,” Superintendent Lynne Celli told the news provider. “The community should not be worried if they see people in suits. They did removal in our school building right across from me and we were able to keep on working.”
The testing isn’t the only precaution being taken by the school to protect staffers and students from enduring asbestos exposure. Children will be kept away from the side of the school that is adjacent to the fire-damaged property and other asbestos-management procedures will be put in place.
“The site will also be sprayed with water during the removal of the rubble,” Celli said. “And we will keep the windows closed on the far side of the building.”
While this abundance of caution on the school’s behalf may appear excessive at first glance, it is anything but, as the World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 people are killed every year around the world from asbestos-related diseases.