North Shore Teacher Questions School District about Asbestos Removal

Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight a recent article by the Chicago Tribune about North Shore School District 112, which was fined two years ago for violating asbestos removal standards. One teacher, Steve Bartel, is asking the district to come clean about the multiple violations that have taken place.

The asbestos removal projects at Elm Place, Indian Trail, and Sherwood schools were enacted in 2007, but required to stop the same year when the Illinois Department of Public Health discovered multiple violations. Although work was permitted to resume a month later, Bartel is concerned that asbestos removal work in other schools, such Lincoln, where he works, was not handled properly. Asbestos removal work was conducted in 2006, one year before the violations were discovered in the other schools.

The district has remained publicly and privately silent about the violations, saying only that they are not concerned anyone’s health was put at risk. A district spokesperson stated that the violations that took place in 2007 were the result of the inadequacies of a subcontractor that was not hired for the 2006 work. District 112 ultimately paid $10,000 in fines after being found guilty of 12 separate counts of EPA air and asbestos violations. Six schools in total were affected: Elm Place, Green Bay, Indian Trail, Lincoln, Red Oak, and Sherwood. The district spent more than $50,000 on the asbestos removal efforts.

As part of the settlement with the state’s Department of Public Health, the district was ordered to file an annual report with the agency detailing its asbestos training record-keeping and management plans, among other matters.

Bartel has been a teacher for 25 years, 20 of which spent at District 112. He has been questioning this incident for years, pressing officials to identify those who may have been exposed. He states he has been met only with resistance and indifference, never truly getting any answers. In March 2013, he finally went before the school board. His appearance was driven by years of unanswered Freedom of Information Act requests, emails, and phone calls. He said his persistence has been met with threats, harsh words, and illegitimate criticisms over his classroom conduct – eventually culminating in a reprimand letter in his personal file.

Asbestos is a known human carcinogen, associated directly with serious and fatal diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, which is cancer of the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. Exposure to asbestos is significantly more lethal in children, because the associated diseases typically take between 20 and 50 years to manifest.

The dangers of asbestos were not publically known until the late 1970s, when it was banned by the United States. It is a fiber-like material, mined from the earth and was used in an array of applications, most extensively in construction, automotive, and shipbuilding industries. It has immense insulating and fire-proofing properties, which is why it was used in abundance in building materials throughout the country in homes, schools, military bases, and commercial buildings before its banning.

Asbestos is most dangerous when it is inhaled, which may occur when the material is disturbed or starts to disintegrate. At this point, removal efforts must be taken, and may only be done by licensed contractors who act in full compliance with federal and state standards. If done improperly, removal work can have dangerous and deadly effects not only on those workers but by anyone within close proximity to the asbestos, such as, in this case, students and teachers.

Bartel is rightfully asserting that he and his colleagues, staff, and parents have the right to know what transpired at the schools during the removal work in previous years. Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm hope Bartel and the North Shore community finally receive the answers they are looking for. If you or a loved one was diagnosed with asbestosis, mesothelioma, or any other asbestos-related illness, you may be entitled to significant compensation. Our attorneys have decades of experience working the victims of asbestos exposure and their families, and can ensure you will receive the largest settlement possible.