Fulton, Ill. – The students of Fulton High School in Fulton, Ill., were unable to attend their school’s homecoming game last weekend after concerns were raised over improper removal of asbestos materials from the school.
School officials canceled all classes and school activities on Friday, after a janitor reported that a large number of floor tiles containing asbestos had been removed in a classroom. According to a news release from the school district, the tile’s removal was done “unilaterally by an employee without authorization.” Asbestos is a huge concern in schools, homes, and office buildings, because exposure to the material can lead to the deadly cancer mesothelioma.
The Homecoming dance was moved to another school in the district, but the football game and other homecoming festivities were canceled. School officials say there are no plans to reschedule any of the canceled events. Though officials hoped that the school would only be closed through the weekend and Columbus day holiday, there was no word on when the doors will reopen. The district is working closely with the state Department of Health to determine when it is safe to let students and faculty back inside.
“We had to take our lead from them,” said Fulton High Principal Kathleen Schipper. “They’re the ones that will tell us when we can reopen the building. It’s up to them.”
The process of proper removal of asbestos-containing materials, called abatement, can only be done by qualified, experienced and licensed workers. Each state outlines how the procedure should be done, and failure to adhere to these laws can lead to large fines and removal of license. Asbestos puts people at risk for mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer affecting more than 3,000 people each year.
When asbestos fibers are in the air, they are easily breathed in by anyone in the surrounding area. In a high school, this can put hundreds of people at risk. Asbestos fibers become trapped in the mesothelium lining of the vital organs, such as the lungs and heart. The can remain there for years, eventually leading to the development of mesothelioma cancer.