Although the majority of individuals link asbestos exposure with industrial and construction workers, other professions are also at risk such as teachers. These individuals spend numerous hours each day within buildings that do not have adequate ventilation and often contain asbestos. Asbestos was used widely within schools and other public buildings, particularly during the middle of the 20th century. Its uses were many and consisted primarily of boiler rooms, floor and ceiling tiles, plumbing and electrical tape, insulation, drywall, lab tables, as well as chalk board backing. Asbestos is able to become airborne whenever the material is disturbed or damaged.
Unfortunately, the hazards associated with asbestos were largely ignored for decades. Studies which were conducted during the 1920s and 1930s showed that the mineral was highly dangerous but the production of asbestos continued largely until the late 1980s. Even then, the substance was regulated but still remained legal within the United States and many products still contain the mineral.
Asbestos and Teachers
In the year 1984, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a report that stated approximately 1.4 million school employees and teachers had undergone asbestos exposure within the public school buildings. After the release of this report, the EPA required that schools undergo asbestos abatement as well as receive regular inspections to ensure that all asbestos was removed from the facilities. Although this served to increase the protection of school employees and teachers, numerous schools still contain the material that is able to become airborne during maintenance, remodeling, as well as the required asbestos abatement. In a study which was conducted between 1999 and 2001, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health discovered that school teachers had a higher mesothelioma rate than the general public. It was also found by the Environmental Working Group that, between the years 1985 and 1999, 137 teachers died from cases of malignant mesothelioma.
This shows that asbestos is also a hazard for teachers, meaning that students might also be at risk of respiratory health conditions. Whenever asbestos is disturbed, it may become airborne with thousands of asbestos particles being inhaled by those who are present in the area. When the asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lungs leading to irritation of the tissue. With the passing of time, the irritation can lead to the formation of scar tissue which can negatively affect the breathing of the individual. Asbestos has also been known to cause cancer such as gastrointestinal cancer, lung cancer and mesothelioma.