Many students, teachers, and school staff are at risk of asbestos exposure because asbestos can still be found in schools. Asbestos still lurks in many products that can be found in schools. According to the EPA, there are asbestos-containing materials in the nation's primary, secondary, and even charter schools. In this article, we talk about, among other things, the risks of asbestos exposure in schools, how asbestos found its way into schools, and common asbestos products in schools.
What is Asbestos?
This is a naturally-occurring mineral made up of fibers that are resistant to corrosion, heat, and electricity. Asbestos was widely used before the 1980s in the construction industry and a variety of products because of its qualities.
There are six types of asbestos. They are;
The Risks of Asbestos Exposure in Schools
Asbestos is usually not dangerous if it is undamaged or left undisturbed. However, when asbestos products are damaged or when they wear down over time, they become harmful. When asbestos products wear down or are damaged, microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne. When a student, teacher, and school staff member inhales airborne asbestos fibers, they can end up developing an asbestos-related disease. Examples of asbestos-related diseases include;
- Lung cancer
How Did Asbestos Find its Way Into Schools?
Today, asbestos is not commonly used. However, as already mentioned, asbestos was widely used before the 1980s in the construction industry. Many schools in the U.S. were built before the 1980s. Many schools were built when asbestos was being added to almost all kinds of building materials to increase fire resistance and durability. During that time, people did not know about the dangers of asbestos exposure.
Common Asbestos Products in Schools
Between 1950 and 1978, which is when most American schools were built, asbestos was added to products used in classrooms, teachers' lounges, auditoriums, and even school corridors. Common materials in schools that may contain asbestos include the following:
- Ceiling tiles
- Cement sheets
- Pipe wrap insulation
- Acoustic panels
- Duct adhesive
- Wiring insulation
- Heating ducts and systems
- Popcorn ceilings
- Fireproofing materials
Apart from building materials, asbestos can also be found in school supplies. For example, asbestos can be found in some crayons.
Students May be at Greater Risk Than Adults
According to the EPA, students may be at greater risk of asbestos exposure. This is mainly because of the following reasons:
- Students generally have a higher breathing rate.
- Students inhale relatively more often through the mouth than through the nose.
- Students tend to spend more time near or on the floor, where asbestos fibers are likely to settle.
- Students are more likely to put things in their mouths that could contain asbestos, such as crayons.
According to the EPA, the above is especially concerning for young children.
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