Asbestos was recently discovered in the paint of the Ward-Craycraft Stadium bleachers at Ceredo-Kenova Elementary in West Virginia. Interim Superintendent Steven Paine claims there’s no reason for public concern over any asbestos exposure.
“The bleachers are in fact safe, so no one needs to panic. They are in good state,” said Paine. “However, there is a procedure to either abate or encapsulate the asbestos.”
The bleachers were supposed to be refurbished or torn down, but now asbestos procedures must be carefully followed. As of right now, laws do not exist to remove all asbestos from schools, but each school should have a management plan in case the toxic mineral becomes damaged or crumbly and no longer contained.
By law, parents can review the management plan in place and if no action is taken to correct the situation soon, the local U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be notified immediately.
As a result of a rule established in the 1980s by the EPA, all management plans must be updated and new inspections are to occur periodically in order to decide if the discovered asbestos should be left as is, encapsulated, or removed by an abatement professional.
“When you get into asbestos, things can get tricky,” stated Paine. “Anytime we have members of the community who are passionate about a cause, we want to capitalize on that and support them, but there are procedures that will have to be followed.”
With asbestos at a school, students aren’t the only factor to consider. In a 1999-2001 study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a substantially elevated rate of mesothelioma cancer was found amongst teachers where the only known exposure for each participant was on the job.
Any asbestos exposure could cause mesothelioma, a deadly and aggressive form of cancer. The U.S. government issued warnings in the 1970s about exposure to this toxic mineral, but many older public buildings, including schools, still contain it. Asbestos insulation, asbestos floor ceiling and tiling, and many other building products made use of the mineral due to its strong heat and fire resistant properties.
The district could either remove or encapsulate the asbestos. Both activities are tedious and expensive. Complete removal could cost up to $30,000, and the board is currently accepting bids on the work.
According to Paine, “The fact is we are in a different realm on that project now. But we will do whatever is needed to ensure the safety of the community and to ensure that beautiful, new school is safely opened.”