Asbestos in Schools News for December 29th, 2008

In FITCHBURG, MA, a report stating that there was not any asbestos in South Street Elementary School appears to have been incorrect. The school learned of the asbestos after having the tiles removed from the gym floor. Following their removal, the school district’s superintendent, Andre Ravenelle, contacted the local Board Advertisement of Health to discover the possible asbestos content in the tiles that were found to have a two percent level. According to federal regulations, some form of action must be taken if an asbestos level in an area exceeds one percent. Ravenelle consulted with the state health officials on the proper ensuing procedures. The testing on the tiles was done by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which contradicted the AAHERA report for South Street that stated that there was no asbestos in the school. As a result, Superintendent Ravenelle has called for the retesting of all the other schools in the district for asbestos and have their contamination reports redone.

Tile removal was recommended by a report from the state Department of Public Health, and a health and safety task force was also created. These developments came as a response to concerns over many safety and health issue raised at the schools from 2006 through 2008. The task force was notified of the asbestos discovered in the floor tiles on November 20, 2008, just days after their removal and subsequent testing. Parents were urged to not be concerned since the tiles removed were still intact. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos becomes a danger when it is broken up into small pieces, fibers, or particles that can be inhaled. Once in the lungs, asbestos can do serious damage, leading to many different forms of lung cancer , mesothelioma , and a scarring of the lungs called asbestosis . All of these diseases can take decades following exposure to develop, but once diagnosed, the patient may have his life span shortened to only a year or two. The principal of South Street Elementary School, William Terrill, declined to comment on the situation.