Some elementary school students in Kansas started their winter break early when asbestos started falling from the ceiling. Students at the Yates Center Elementary and Middle School were evacuated from the school on Dec. 19 and they won’t be returning to school until after winter break and the asbestos has been managed.
According to a Dec. 19 report from KWCH12, teachers and students noticed something falling from the ceiling as they were heading into the lunch room. The asbestos-containing materials were found littering the cafeteria as well as the multi-purpose room. Staff acted quickly and caution signs were placed in the areas, and staff cleared the building and moved the students to the nearby high school.
Although Superintendent Greg Brown reports asbestos removal work has been ongoing, this incident is of concern saying he did not expect something like this to happen, according to KWCH12. Brown has scheduled consultant support to help the school create a plan for managing the asbestos. He said he would be contacting the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).
KDHE notes that common places where asbestos can be found in buildings built prior to the 1980’s are around duct and pipe insulation, in adhesives used in vinyl floors, carpets and ceiling tiles, insulation board on walls, in flexible connections for ventilation ducts, and other areas. As a result of potential risks posed to human health and environment, the EPA banned new uses of asbestos in 1989.
In Kansas, asbestos abatement activities are regulated by the KDHE, Bureau of Air. Asbestos abatement activities include removal, encapsulation, dismantling or demolition of asbestos-containing materials. KDHE must be notified if these activities occur in a building, structure or adjoining area accessible to the public.
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act , a provision of the Toxic Substances Control Act, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, requires local education agencies to “inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material and prepare management plans to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards.”
Asbestos is a human carcinogen and is known to cause deadly cancers, including mesothelioma and lung cancer, when the fibers are inhaled or ingested. The EPA reports that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and “the risk of school children being exposed to even low levels of asbestos is a concern.”
If you are concerned about asbestos in your child’s school, contact your school administrator. According to the EPA, your local school district/local education agency must nominate a “designated person” to perform and delegate, if necessary, the management of asbestos in a school building. This person should be able to address any specific concerns you have about management of asbestos in your child’s school.