We all know that schools use equipment that is old, dated or even expired on occasion. This can include old textbooks, course materials or even laboratory equipment. Before we knew of the dangers associated with asbestos, many schools used the material in laboratory exercises. Although the use of asbestos in schools has dropped off, school officials in Australia recently made a grim discovery with their science equipment. In the state of Queensland, which is supposed to have the strictest anti-asbestos regulations in Australia, asbestos-containing materials was found in school science kits.
Asbestos, the deadly substance known to cause cancers such as mesothelioma, harms its victims when the fibers are inhaled. Many of the science kits were more than 20 years old, meaning an entire generation of Townsville students were put at risk by using this equipment. It is indeed conceivable that similar situations exist in many American schools; this discovery is certainly cause for concern here, even though officials in Queensland contend that the materials posed little threat to students.
Queensland’s Minister of Education, Cameron Dick, said an alert was issued to schools at the time and a whopping 159 kits were taken out of area schools. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Dick contended that students were at minimal risk as the asbestos was in rock form. “I’m advised by our asbestos health adviser, Dr. Keith Adams, that there is minimal risk to any student who may have come in contact with that and we have withdrawn all the mineral kits from Queensland schools,” he said.
Meanwhile, NineMSN is reporting that the asbestos-tainted science kits have generated considerable political fights between Queensland officials. “Labor is dangerously exposing our children to asbestos,” Bruce Flegg of the center-right Liberal National Party said on Monday. “We are still seeing far too many examples of children and teachers who are exposed to potentially deadly airborne asbestos fibers. It would seem Labor chose to keep the revelation under wraps to avoid adverse publicity.”
Queensland’s Premier, Anna Bligh of the leftist Labor Party, blamed the opposition for the asbestos material found in the schools. She said, “It was not the Labor Party who put asbestos in schools. It was the Liberal and National parties of Queensland who continued to put it in our schools long after the world knew that it was a dangerous material.” Bligh called her party’s efforts, “The biggest asbestos removal program in the country.”
The finger-pointing between politicians is incredible. Shouldn’t they be more concerned that these potentially dangerous materials were readily available in schools? This attitude is something we see in countries all around the world, including in the U.S. Even though this particular incident occurred in Australia, it’s a good reminder that we should be vigilant about the materials and products our schools and community centers use on a regular basis. Let’s ensure the safety of our children.
Let’s ban asbestos now.