Asbestos School of the Week: Schilling Elementary

As if the nation’s cash-strapped schools haven’t got enough to worry about, Homer Community Consolidated School District 33C must now spend $200,000 for asbestos removal from one of its buildings.
The asbestos is located in the southern section of Schilling Elementary School; the materials themselves are in the mastic adhesive holding floor tiles in place underneath the carpet and around pipes that have been sealed in the concrete slab below that. Because of this, school board representative Thomas Buckley is confident that students are not in danger. Buckley told a Chicago Sun Times reporter that ” the building has been inspected numerous times by the EPA for any issues of any problems… what is in place is a safe and adequate system for not having any problems with the asbestos.”

Because the asbestos-covered pipe is sealed in concrete, costs would be prohibitive. Therefore, the current asbestos removal work will focus on the floor tiles. Eventually, the underground pipes will have to be removed because there is a danger that the asbestos may contaminate the water supply as the pipes age and deteriorate. Such problems have been noted in other communities in which water pipes have either been lagged with asbestos insulation or are themselves made from asbestos concrete. Schilling Elementary was originally constructed in 1957, during a time in which asbestos was used in virtually every phase of building construction.

Good intentions were behind the decision to use asbestos in the construction of school buildings, and in fact asbestos may very well have saved many thousands children and staff members from burn injuries and death. Unfortunately, the real dangers were not apparent for decades; today, the profession of elementary school teacher is listed among those at high risk for developing asbestos disease. In the United Kingdom, there is an extremely high rate of mesothelioma among school teachers. In the U.S., because of the type of asbestos used, school teachers are more likely to contract asbestosis, although mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer are not unheard of.