Asbestos Concerns at a West Baltimore School

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

Parents of students at a west Baltimore elementary middle school are voicing concerns over possible asbestos work to the roof that will be done while kids are still attending classes.

“I have a grandchild here. I have a nephew here,” said Tracey Goggins. “My nephew has asthma and I’m worried about kids and the staff help. I love the school.”

Parents’ hope is for the Rosemont Elementary Middle School to be shut down until the work is complete. Right now, the project is scheduled to begin next month and could last up to one year.

“The roof is leaking substantially,” said City School Chief Operating Officer Keith Scroggins. The roof hasn’t been replaced since the building opened 47 years ago.

Parents received a letter in the mail that stated, “Please note that this project involves removal and demolition of the existing roof, which is old and may contain asbestos.”

The letter went on to mention how daily air samples will be taken and how any dust or debris from the roof work will be removed before students and staff return to the building.

“The asbestos is not friable, in that it doesn’t blow away. It’ll be removed under mitigation standards by a certified company,” said Scroggins.

Some parents want more. According to Goggins, “I need for them to assure me that my child is going to be safe; that she is not going to become ill while they’re doing the work on the roof.”

“The project is not going to proceed until four o’clock in the afternoon, when everyone is gone,” said Scroggins. “There will not be any work done, certainly no asbestos removal, while students and staff members are in the building.”

Rosemont Elementary Middle School is not alone when it comes to asbestos problems. Many schools were made with asbestos insulation, floor, and ceiling tiles. Plus, a plethora of other building products made use of the mineral.

Asbestos problems in Baltimore aren’t limited to schools, either. The city has been home to hundreds of hospitals, public buildings, and jobsites where workers, visitors, and residents can be exposed to the carcinogenic material.

In fact, it’s been proven asbestos has posed health risks to school teachers. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in a study conducted between 1999 and 2001, found a substantially elevated rate of mesothelioma cancer among school teachers in the U.S., whose only known exposure was on the job.

For students, there are ways parents can help protect their children from asbestos in schools. Refer to this guide by Pulitzer Prize-Winning Investigative Journalist Gary Cohn.