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Asbestos and mold concerns force cleanup of elementary school

This story is from Alabama, but this situation could occur in any school district in the United States. The problems are the same across the country, from Maine to California. The town of Montevallo is south of Birmingham, and is facing the issue of cleaning up an elementary school. The cleanup was prompted by high levels of mold spores measured in an air quality test.

During the Christmas break, the school district began a broader cleanup, which went beyond the mold issue to include asbestos removal. In addition to the mold remediation, the district announced removal of some asbestos-containing materials found in hallway tiles near the first-grade area. The PTO claimed the school was "unsafe" and that some teachers were worried to enter the building because of the asbestos exposure.

The U.S. has approximately 130,000 school buildings and unless they were built in the last few years, the EPA estimated they are practically certain to contain some asbestos materials. Many of the building materials during the time these structures were built used asbestos, as it was inexpensive, effective as insulation and as a fire-retardant.

It was used in spray-on fireproof coatings, insulation on pipes and air ducts, in ceiling tile, floor tile and plaster in walls. The use of material was restricted in the late 1980s, but about half of U.S. schools were built during the decades prior to ban on asbestos. The very small fibers of asbestos can become lodged in the lungs and cause fatal illnesses, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.

Source: The Birmingham News, "Cleanup, concerns continue over Montevallo Elementary mold, asbestos issues," Martin J. Reed, December 24, 2012


It's great to see awareness being promoted about this problem. We live in a historic town where the schools were built many years ago; there is almost guaranteed to be asbestos within the foundation. There needs to be money allocated to asbestos testing and removal so children and staff are not harmed in the future.

Thank you for your comment, Bill. I agree with you. Some people prefer to not disturb it and put the issue on hold because it can be costly to do proper removal. If people wait too long, it will be more costly in the future, and more lives will be affected by exposure and disease. What we can do right now is spread the power of awareness. - Lauren

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