Asbestos and Mold Concerns Force Cleanup of Elementary School

This story is from Alabama, but this situation could occur in any school district in the United States. The problems are the same across the country, from Maine to California. The town of Montevallo is south of Birmingham, and is facing the issue of cleaning up an elementary school. The cleanup was prompted by high levels of mold spores measured in an air quality test.

During the Christmas break, the school district began a broader cleanup, which went beyond the mold issue to include asbestos removal. In addition to the mold remediation, the district announced removal of some asbestos-containing materials found in hallway tiles near the first-grade area. The PTO claimed the school was “unsafe” and that some teachers were worried to enter the building because of the asbestos exposure.

The U.S. has approximately 130,000 school buildings and unless they were built in the last few years, the EPA estimated they are practically certain to contain some asbestos materials. Many of the building materials during the time these structures were built used asbestos because it was inexpensive, effective as insulation, and as a fire-retardant.

It was used in spray-on fireproof coatings, insulation on pipes and air ducts, in ceiling tile, floor tile and plaster in walls. The use of material was restricted in the late 1980s, but about half of U.S. schools were built during the decades prior to ban on asbestos. The very small fibers of asbestos can become lodged in the lungs and cause fatal illnesses such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.

Source: The Birmingham News, “Cleanup, concerns continue over Montevallo Elementary mold, asbestos issues,” Martin J. Reed, December 24, 2012