As has been reported numerous times in the past, many schools in the U.S. are faced with quickly having to manage unforeseen issues with asbestos. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that intact asbestos does not pose a health hazard, however, once damaged it must immediately be removed. A school in Long Island, NY, had to act quickly earlier this month after a radiator caused flooding in an adjacent classroom exposing asbestos.
According to a Jan. 25 article from Newsday, a radiator in an adjoining building led to flooding that spread to the ceiling above Hempstead High School’s music classroom. During the repair work on the ceiling tiles, workers saw the exposed wrapping on the insulated pipes and halted work to alert the proper authorities.
School officials acted swiftly and brought in an environmental remediation firm that found “slight asbestos” in the pipes. Subsequent air quality tests were clear of any airborne asbestos. Out of an abundance of caution the school took additional steps to clean and sanitize the room as well as having all band uniforms in the room professionally dry-cleaned.
All repair work was quickly completed with limited impact on students or scheduled classes. Parents were alerted to the issue via the website and through robocalls. Superintendent Regina Armstrong said, “No staff or student was exposed to asbestos.”
Many schools, and other buildings, were built with materials that contain asbestos, and still harbor asbestos-containing materials, according to the EPA. U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration reports that asbestos has been used in products such as insulation for pipes (steam lines for example), floor tiles, ceiling tiles, and other building materials.
Risk of mesothelioma, lung cancer or other asbestos-related diseases becomes an issue when asbestos is damaged or disturbed and asbestos fibers can become airborne and inhaled.
The EPA requires schools to closely monitor asbestos and to safely and quickly remove the toxic material in the case of damaged or friable materials. Personnel working on asbestos activities in schools must be trained and accredited in accordance with The Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan, according to the EPA.
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.