It's summer, the time of year when empty classrooms mean lots of construction projects are underway in schools in the Novato area. The projects may be welcome improvements, but the work can sometimes disrupt asbestos which is commonly found in older schools across the country. That disruption is hazardous to area school children as well as teachers and other school employees.
Asbestos is a natural fiber that was previously used often in the manufacturing of products such as ceiling tiles and insulation. Exposure to toxic asbestos materials can cause a form of cancer called mesothelioma, which is life-threatening and difficult to treat.
Many myths exist about asbestos and schools. Parents and teachers may be surprised to learn that asbestos is still a major safety issue in many schools today. According to the Environmental Working Group, if a school was built before 1981, it is likely to have materials with asbestos. Despite the known dangers, asbestos is still used in some building materials, so even a new school could possibly use a material that contains asbestos.
Construction workers are not the only ones at risk when a building contains asbestos and a project disturbs it. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted a study that found teachers were at a greater risk than the average person to suffer and die from mesothelioma.
Information about asbestos in your neighborhood school should be on file for you to view. Federal regulations require schools to inspect their building for asbestos every three years. Schools also must have a report available to parents and employees who work in the buildings.
If you are a concerned parent or a school employee and you believe that you or your child has been exposed to asbestos, a lawyer skilled in mesothelioma cases can help. It's important to get answers to questions about the causes of your health problems and determine whether someone should be held legally responsible.
Source: Ewg.org, "Five myths about asbestos in schools," Megan Boyle, March 2016.