Schools Still Struggle with Asbestos Exposure

Elementary schools throughout the United States continue to struggle in protecting children against exposure to asbestos. One school near Cleveland, Ohio is under criminal investigation after students and volunteers helped gut a building containing the deadly mineral. Another school in Alabama just recently reopened after mandatory cleaning and asbestos-removing efforts.

The Alabama school, Montevallo Elementary, closed in December 2012 because of poor air quality tests. Parents and teachers were concerned about the presence of mold, asbestos, and even snakes in the schools’ facilities. One report acknowledged the presence of trace amounts of black mold in classrooms, hallways, and offices. Exposure to mold causes many health problems, including skin irritation, breathing difficulties, allergic reactions, and worsened asthma.

After the poor air quality reports surfaced, more than 100 parents pulled their children out of classes, citing numerous health problems. Second graders in particular experienced bouts of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. One child with severe asthma was sent home multiple times since September, and wheezes constantly from fluid buildup in his lungs. Another child was often sent home with nosebleeds, which her doctor attributed to something she was inhaling. Two students were diagnosed with asthma after their first year at Montevallo.

Fumes from the cleanup work are also a concern to parents. There are about a dozen specific remedial projects currently ongoing at the school, including floor tile, carpet, and ceiling tile replacement, heating and air systems cleaning, and underground piping instillation. Asbestos was found in the school’s hallways tiles, and must be removed according to all federal and state guidelines.

A small religious school in Cleveland attempted to remove asbestos-containing material without following the standard asbestos regulations, and is now facing criminal charges because of it. For several weeks, Buckeye Education School allowed children and volunteers to remove asbestos from local YMCA buildings without any protective gear. One Ohio resident who lives next to the former YMCA used his camera to shoot a video capturing the children removing debris from the facility. In one scene, the video depicts debris being unloaded into a dumpster and a huge cloud of toxic dust bellowing into the air. The man said the children were “loaded” with asbestos dust.

School officials declined to comment on who told the students to help with the building’s renovations. Buckeye purchased the former YMCA buildings in the summer of 2012. Buckeye Education is a faction of Sterling Education, which runs 35 schools around the country. Now, Sterling Education states that they have hired a certified asbestos removal company and are in full cooperation with the EPA.

The EPA began investigations after receiving complaints in December 2012. The case is still in its early stages, although EPA investigators revealed that, upon entering the site, they initially found three dumpsters filled with what is believed to be asbestos-containing material. Inside the buildings, nearly all walls and ceilings have been removed, leaving pipes and other surfaces exposed to whoever enters. EPA tests found that asbestos was present in the floor tiles, pipes, and duct fabric.

Health inspectors are now recommending that Buckeye students recount exactly what they did inside these buildings, and for how long they were at the site over the several-week period, in order to best determine potential exposure levels. Parents are advised to contact their family doctor, who can perform respiratory tests and chest x-rays.

Asbestos is a known human carcinogen, and leads to development of serious and life-threatening diseases, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. Typically, it takes many decades for these illnesses to develop, so keeping updated tests and examinations is integral to detecting an illness before it advances.

Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm hope the cleanup efforts at both schools are completed safely and efficiently. If you or someone you love was exposed to asbestos and developed a related illness, you should contact an experienced asbestos exposure attorney immediately for a free legal consultation.