Custodians and Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber with high resistance to heat and electricity, which made it an excellent and affordable component to use in the construction industry.
Custodians could have been exposed to asbestos when carrying out routine repairs. If there were issues with a boiler, a custodian might have to remove the asbestos lining to take a closer look. If a custodian was having trouble with pipes, they would also have to unpack them to examine the damage.
Once the fibers are moved or disturbed, they can become airborne and puncture the lining of the lungs.
Studies on Custodians and Asbestos Exposure Levels
A report from the Missouri Department of Health stated that custodians who performed routine activities in buildings with asbestos materials were not exposed to levels of asbestos that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) deemed dangerous.
The samples were collected from 8 custodians from 6 selected schools. The study showed that the levels of asbestos were well below the OSHA action level at these particular sites, but because the research pool is so low there is not enough data to support the findings on a broader scale.
Custodians in different states, areas, and schools may have come into more contact than others, depending on the type of work they were required to do.
Mesothelioma Justice Network Brief
Asbestos in schools is not a huge concern until it comes to renovating or maintenance. Asbestos fibers are not dangerous until they become airborne.
When routine maintenance is required on boilers, pipes, flooring or ceiling tiles, the custodians who come into contact with it could be at risk.
Custodians were often required to hammer or drill various walls, work with air conditioning systems and remove or replace the insulation material around pipes, so there was a chance that they may come into contact with asbestos.
If they were working on something that required them to move or disturb the asbestos, the risk of the fibers becoming inhaled is greater.
Today, custodians coming into contact with asbestos would be advised to wear a fitted face mask and overalls to minimize the number of particles they may come into contact with and avoid spreading them into other common areas.