Bethlehem, PA—After working in a home that was contaminated with the toxic mineral material asbestos, several teachers and up to 100 students at a vocational school are now concerned about their risk for mesothelioma, the asbestos cancer.
According to instructors Richard M. Crosby and Heath Bullard, the administration at Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School knew about the potential for asbestos exposure that the home posed to teachers and students. When they brought up their concerns and discussed the asbestos issue with a local newspaper, they also allege, the school’s administration threatened to fire them for talking about the incident.
The two instructors, along with one of the students, Anthony E. Smith, have retained the services of an attorney, although they have not yet filed a lawsuit.
Between 50 and 100 students, in addition to three teachers and other workers, labored in the home for two months, renovating it. The home is owned by the school.
Many homes, schools, and other buildings that were constructed prior to 1980 may still contain the carcinogenic asbestos materials. Asbestos was at one time considered a “miracle mineral” because of its ability to withstand fire and high temperatures while remaining strong and flexible. It was incorporated into many building and industrial materials, such as insulation, ceiling and floor tiles, cement, wallboard and even fabrics and plastics.
Although regulations concerning the use of asbestos-containing materials in new construction have been enacted in recent decades, the existing structures may still contain asbestos, the microscopic fibers of which can become airborne and respirable when the materials are damaged or destroyed. When this occurs, the microscopic fibers may become embedded in the body’s soft tissues, where they can lead to the rare cancer mesothelioma and other diseases.
Mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs, heart or stomach, is diagnosed in only 3,000 people in the United States each year. An aggressive cancer, it has no known cure and usually results in death within two years of diagnosis.