…And Now, Our “Asbestos School of the Week”!

This week’s “Asbestos School” is Bethel High School in Danbury, Connecticut. On a Tuesday evening early in March, employees of Eagle Environmental Inc. were engaged is an asbestos abatement project in a science room on the second floor of the school building. Science labs are traditionally “hot spots” for asbestos because of the use of chemicals.

The type of asbestos used in chemical labs is usually crocidolite–an especially deadly kind of amphibole asbestos, the fibers of which are hard, rigid and needle-like, but is nonetheless exceptionally resistant to caustic chemicals. Amphibole asbestos is the type mainly responsible for mesothelioma. Workers were moving a heavy countertop out of the science lab when one of the workers lost his grip. The countertop dropped onto the floor and broke into pieces–releasing perhaps millions of microscopic fibers into the school building’s atmosphere. Air samples that were taken right after the incident confirmed the presence of “elevated levels of asbestos fiber.”

Cleanup was undertaken immediately after, and a second air sample was taken, which showed that asbestos levels had decreased to those that were considered to be “within the state [Department of Health] re-occupancy air clearance standard for asbestos abatement areas.” This is the story according to Eagle Environmental. However, school administrators have said that they knew nothing about it at all until the morning of the second day–and had no proof that the “so-called accident” was indeed the cause of the asbestos readings. Danbury School District Gary Chesley said, “I think when they all put their heads together in one place at one time and began to figure out where this thing was dropped and where the bad reading was, they’re not convinced right now the two are connected.”

Bethel High School was closed Thursday and students sent home for two days while Chesley made arrangements to “make sure the place is 100% clean.” This is not the first time asbestos has caused a disruption at Bethel High. On 6 February, students and faculty were sent home after renovation workers accidentally broke into a wall, exposing asbestos-containing insulation.