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School stays open despite presence of asbestos

Exposure to asbestos can be disabling or fatal. It is known that diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer can be caused. Victims may not show symptoms of any of these for at least 10 years, which can cause difficulty when tracing the source of exposure. However, the students and faculty at one high school have no doubt that they are exposed to asbestos.

During an October inspection, it was revealed that the school has asbestos tiles and has not tested the air to detect whether or not airborne asbestos is present. State health officials are demanding immediate action.

Despite the fact that some emergency repairs to the East Providence school have already taken place, extensive work to the infrastructure must still be done. Water pipes that repeatedly rupture and flood the school must be replaced, but the main priority is to test the air.

While the school has plans to do the air testing and other repairs over the upcoming winter break, school is still in session. Another phase of repairs will be done over the summer, but at this point, the school will not close in between projects unless the air testing results show unsafe conditions. Difficulty with securing funds for the repairs may also force the school to close if the repairs cannot be completed in a timely manner.

The fact that the school is working to remove the asbestos may be of little relief to students and faculty members who attended high school prior to the time repairs started. If the school was aware of the asbestos and did not notify those who were there every day, the ramifications could be very serious.

Additionally, since the onset of symptoms caused by exposure to asbestos may take several years to show, those who attended these schools 10 or more years ago may only now be getting diagnosed with lung cancer and asbestosis.

A diagnosis of cancer is devastating for the victim and family members. Fortunately, medical advancements have been made that prolong life and ease symptoms. However, pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost income can prove to be very costly. Victims may be eligible for compensation from anyone liable for damages in the form of personal injury or wrongful death litigation.

Source: East Providence Patch, "Department of Health Violation Threatens to Close East Providence High School," Abigail Crocker, Nov. 29, 2011.

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