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Asbestos in schools

Keeping Asbestos Abatement Honest

asbestos abatementI was disturbed to read a story in the Chicago Tribune about an Illinois school district that got in trouble with the law for keeping inaccurate records on asbestos abatement. These incidents may have needlessly put students and faculty at risk of deadly diseases such as malignant mesothelioma.

One teacher is looking for answers
In 2006, the Elm Place, Sherwood and Indian Trail schools of North Shore School District 112 were conducting asbestos abatement projects. However, the jobs were put on hold in the middle of 2007, when the state’s Department of Public Health found violations within the schools’ record keeping practices.

Although the abatement work resumed one month later, Steve Bartel, who teaches fifth grade at Lincoln School, still has questions. He told the news source that he’s worried the asbestos abatement work in 2006 that took place in other schools may have had shoddy record keeping as well.

Bartel has made several impassioned appearances before the school board demanding answers. When he didn’t get them, he filed Freedom of Information Act requests, which also went without a response.

“I can’t understand how they can be so insensitive to people having been exposed to fibers that are linked to asbestosis and mesothelioma,” Bartel told the Chicago Tribune. He also revealed that he had been professionally reprimanded for his actions.

Meanwhile, officials with the school district are reassuring parents that all the asbestos abatement work is conducted by specially trained and licensed professionals, and that air analyses to test for asbestos fibers are conducted by separate contractors. Ultimately, they claimed that no one was harmed throughout this whole process.

Where can asbestos lurk in my child’s school?
It’s important to remember that asbestos doesn’t pose any health hazards as long as it’s left intact. Still, all people, including children, should be aware of the presence of asbestos so they know to avoid it.

When it comes to schools, asbestos is most likely to be used for insulation, flooring and ceiling tiles, cement pipes, corrugated paper pipe wrapping, decorative insulation and spray-applied insulation. The school should have a record of where these items are on campus, and let people know that they’re not to be disturbed.

Schools also need to conduct regular inspections and have a management plan – all of which need to be documented in records that are available for public review.

Don’t give up until you get the answers you need
Experts estimate that every year in the U.S., asbestos-related diseases claim nearly 10,000 lives. Asbestos exposure is clearly no joke, and should be taken seriously by everyone.

That’s why we find this story appalling on several levels. Not only did the school districts fail to maintain accurate and trustworthy records, but they also may have put their teachers and students at risk.

If you have concerns about your child’s school, contact the local education agency and ask to speak with the person who’s designated to handle asbestos-related activities.

Risks of Asbestos Exposure on College Campuses

asbestos_exposureWhenever people think about the dangers surrounding one’s exposure to asbestos, images of old, rundown factories or office buildings may come to mind. But in the last few months, I’ve come across at least two news articles that highlighted the presence of asbestos on college campuses.

This greatly worries us here at Kazan Law. When college students think about their futures 20 to 50 years from now, they should be picturing themselves happy in stimulating careers and not struggling with diseases such as malignant mesothelioma.

Discoveries are startling at Kansas State University
Student union buildings serve as hubs of activity on college campuses. These busy locales are where young individuals have lunch, student organizations hold their meetings and student body leaders meet with school faculty. At Kansas State University, Manhattan, people on campus were in for a rude awakening when officials discovered that the Union building, as well as other structures, contained asbestos. This led to restrictions as well as closures of certain rooms and floors.

All employees of the Union building were alerted to the danger and told that they were safe as long as no one disturbed the asbestos. Meanwhile, campus officials have to avoid making certain alterations to their surroundings, such as erecting walls that reach all the way up to the ceilings.

‘Skip the thumbtacks and nails’
Decorative posters are a natural way for college students to express themselves in their living spaces. However, last autumn, Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia warned students who were staying in some of its campus housing units that they needed to avoid using thumbtacks or nails when hanging posters or other decorative items because of the threat of asbestos exposure.

Analyses of air samples around the school indicated that students were not in any immediate danger. Still, administrators advised students on campus to use sticky adhesives to hang items on their walls.

Campuses are responsible for keeping students safe
The danger of exposure to asbestos is that mineral fibers can cause serious damage to the body’s cells if they’re inhaled or ingested. Specifically, asbestos can lead to respiratory problems and malignant diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, throat and other tissues. One reason why public health experts are concerned about asbestos is that people may not be aware they have become sick from the material until decades have passed since they were exposed. By then, it is often too late for prognoses to be hopeful.

Asbestos was a common component of products used in construction on buildings that were erected before the 1980s. Specifically, asbestos may be present in insulation, textured wall surfaces, roofing tiles, electrical equipment, cement piping and other items.

College campuses are responsible for knowing what dangers their students face when it comes to asbestos. Campus ERC, an environmental advocacy group for higher education, lists several regulations that campuses must follow during major construction and renovation projects. Among them are requirements to adhere to the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants and communicate with the federal Environmental Protection Agency about the handling of asbestos-containing materials.

Asbestos a Threat to Many U.S. Schools

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. Continue reading

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