Asbestos in Schools – 11 Mar 2009

In YONKERS, NY, Emerson Middle School closed on Friday, February 27, 2009, following the discovery of tiles loosened by a water leak.

Initial concerns were from people who might slip on the tiles, but it was revealed later that day that the school officials had a much larger problem on their hands than slippery floors. Air quality tests done at the school after the students left did not show any asbestos in the air, but the tiles were so badly damaged by the water leak from the previous weekend that they would need to be replaced.

The tiles in question did integrate asbestos into their construction material, but just the water leak did not disturb it enough to become airborne. In the replacement process, the tiles will need to be picked up and replaced. In pulling the floor tiles up, the asbestos in them has a greater chance to become airborne and pose a health hazard to those in the school. Air quality testing was scheduled to be conducted after the tile removal. Parents were told to stay by their phones for notification about whether Emerson Middle School would reopen the following Monday.

In ST. JOSEPH, MO, replacing asbestos flooring in schools and district buildings is among the many planned projects to use some of the $1.2 billion from the federal stimulus package.

Modernization of the schools topped the list of tasks for the district. Most of the schools in the district do not have air conditioning, which can make schools sweltering in the heat and humidity of the summer months. By bringing the schools to modern standards, the asbestos in them would have to be replaced by safer materials. The age of the school buildings in the district raises the likelihood that asbestos is present in many parts of their construction, not just in the floor tiles.

Asbestos was once used as an insulation product as well as mixed into many construction components, but it has been outlawed in new construction since it was discovered that inhalation of its fibers can lead to cancer.