The students and parents of Public School 256 near Brooklyn, New York, know about difficulties. The students of the special needs school are no strangers to doctors who present their parents with the initial diagnosis, but now, they and their parents could face another diagnosis in the future – lung disease caused by asbestos in their school. Public School 256 should be a safe haven for those with special needs such as autism, severe emotional disturbances, and developmental disabilities, but a report released by the Department of Education (DOE) shows that asbestos is present in the peeling paint, tiles, and plaster. Such broken building materials can allow the asbestos inside to be released into the air. Once airborne, the asbestos is inhaled by those nearby. Inhalation of asbestos fibers has been linked to developing deadly cancers and lung diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma 10 to 20 years later.
Officials with the union are concerned about the asbestos as well as lead which might be in the paint. Use of leaded paint has been tied to learning difficulties. According to federal law, schools must undergo routine inspections for asbestos. Immediate steps for its removal must be taken should any be found. An assessment of the school was made in July, but the teachers and students were allowed to remain in the school until the end of the summer session, despite the fact that the assessment discovered exposed asbestos in the building. A review of the asbestos situation at the school and planning a course of action are to be taken by the DOE at the end of August.