A Head Start preschool program on an American Indian reservation in Southern Colorado was recently closed due to the discovery of asbestos. The preschool left about 95 families struggling to find other day care accommodations for approximately 140 kids.
The asbestos was found in a crawl space, and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe forced the building to close right after. Some children are staying in modular classrooms close by, while 45 students are being transferred to the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum until the problem is resolved.
Sadly, this preschool is not the only one dealing with asbestos problems. Millions of children who attend schools in the U.S. built before the 1980s are at risk of being exposed to harmful asbestos, which was widely used as a fireproofing material in construction projects for many decades. However, there are important steps parents can take to protect their children.
“Just because a school contains materials made with asbestos should not be reason for parents and caregivers to panic, but they should be understandably concerned,” said Alex Formuzis of the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C.
President of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization Linda Reinstein urges parents to be “vigilant” in making sure federal laws and regulations protecting children in schools are enforced.
“Across the United States, too many students and teachers continue to be at risk of inhaling harmful asbestos fibers in their schools’ classrooms, cafeterias, and hallways,” stated Megan Boyle on her website aimed at empowering parents to take action and protect children from harmful chemicals.
“The [Head Start] program hopes to reopen by the end of this week, if not sooner,” said Director of Southern Ute Community Action Program Eileen Wasserbach.
Colorado has had its fair share of asbestos and mesothelioma problems. From 1999 to 2015, 484 Colorado residents died from mesothelioma cancer. The state has a mesothelioma mortality rate of about six people per million. The areas with the most mesothelioma cases are concentrated in the central region of the state, largely around Denver and Colorado Springs.