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Concerns rise after asbestos found in school

People who have heard of asbestos generally associate the toxic fiber with industrial machines, construction jobs and military vessels. It is true that these are just a few of the environments in which asbestos was commonly used and can still be found today. However, people may be surprised to learn that asbestos still lurks in places that many of us visit on a regular basis.

In recent years, for example, asbestos has been found in schools in North Carolina and across the country. School buildings do not necessarily go through the frequent renovations and construction jobs that office buildings or homes typically do. This means that many of them still contain products that were made with asbestos decades ago, and they are starting to deteriorate. Parents, children and school employees may no doubt be worried about their safety. 

One school recently found asbestos in floor tiles in one of the building's wings and had to shut down the entire area so that they could have the tiles removed. People were understandably worried about their safety, but school officials were quick to reassure parents and staff members that every safety precaution was being taken to protect the rest of the school.

For decades, asbestos was used in building construction materials for its fire-resistant qualities and the fact that it was relatively cheap. Manufacturers used the fiber in everything from insulation and floor tiles to plumbing and pipes. Undisturbed, the asbestos does not present a significant threat. However, once it is disturbed or deteriorates, the fibers are released into the air where they can easily be breathed in. This is how people develop mesothelioma or lung cancer.

Schools in particular may go for long periods of time between renovations and repairs, leaving asbestos to remain in the building and crumble from neglect. Funding and resources can make it difficult to address these problems, but it is crucial that if and when asbestos is found in a building, appropriate steps are taken to prevent people from being exposed to the cancer-causing fibers.

Source: WAAY, "Asbestos warning signs at Clements causes concern for students and parents," Rachel Keith, March 7, 2014

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