Parents Outraged After Asbestos Found in Kindergarten

The New York Daily News reports that “Parents are in an uproar after asbestos was discovered in an elementary school's Corona annex where their children had been attending kindergarten classes.” The article explains this material “was discovered after teachers complained of water damage and falling tiles from the annex ceiling” Asbestos was an extremely popular material used throughout U.S. schools and other buildings until the 1970s. As a construction material, asbestos lent its strong thermal, sound, and fire resistance to structures. However, these useful properties came at a steep price. Once asbestos fibers used in construction materials like insulation break free through physical deterioration or aging, they can collect as a dangerous dust. When disturbed, this asbestos dust can enter the air where it can be easily inhaled or ingested by anyone in the vicinity. The New York news source explains that according to city officials, “About 100 students from Public School 143 were removed from the annex last month after water leaks threatened to disturb asbestos in the roof beams.” The children were then taken to another nearby school, where they will remain until “repairs on the former parochial school are completed,” the Daily News reports. However, many parents have expressed fear at the idea of allowing their children to return to the school where asbestos materials were found, the news source explains. Asbestos exposure can lead to a number of life-threatening health conditions, including chronic respiratory illnesses and cancer. One such cancer is mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a particularly lethal form of cancer which develops after asbestos fibers have been embedded in the body’s internal tissues for a period of 20 to 50 years. After this latency period, the cancer progresses quickly, presenting patients with a short life expectancy of only about one year. The sensitive, developing bodies of children are also extremely vulnerable to asbestos exposure. Furthermore, children may handle asbestos materials and play in areas where these lethal fibers have accumulated, putting them at a heightened risk. According to the news report, some teachers believe that the school district would never “place children from a wealthier neighborhood back into an asbestos-contaminated building.” This school is populated heavily by children of immigrant families, particularly Latinos. Although a Department of Education official explained that air tests in this school did not turn up any trace of asbestos, the Daily News explains that teachers left behind all of their teaching supplies, fearing asbestos fibers which may have coated them. Until this asbestos threat has been taken care, of the New York news source explains that teachers and students have had to make due in other classrooms “scattered throughout PS 307” using borrowed materials and improvising. The Daily News explains that Nick Comaianni, president of the Community Education Council in District 24, said that despite these educational challenges, the decision to move the children and staff during these repairs was “the right call,” based on the significant threat asbestos exposure poses.
Trapasso, Clare. (October 10, 2011) “Asbestos scare prompts relocation of 100 kindergartners from Corona school after mineral found.” Retrieved on October 10, 2011 from the New York Daily News.
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