Parents Worry about Asbestos in Georgia School

Students attending summer school at Collins Elementary in Collins, Georgia – near Savannah – may be risking their health, says a story aired by WTOC Savannah. That’s because school officials recently reported that asbestos was uncovered during renovation work to the ceiling.

“I worry about his health every day,” said Amanda Reese, whose son is attending summer classes at Collins. “But to worry about his health at school with an asbestos problem, that’s just overwhelming.”

Reese and others said they were unhappy about the explanation they received from the school in regards to the asbestos situation.

“The principal said, ‘oh yeah it’s there but we have a special contractor to work around it,’ but I don’t think that helps,” said Tracey Hines, another parent.

Principals for both the elementary and middle school said that renovations were in a building not used for summer school. However, they noted, they requested an air quality test from the Statesboro office of the Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) anyway.

“Which we are doing this week and hope to have the results back next week,” stated elementary principal Dr. Jeanie Burkhalter. “But no students have been in the construction area when the work was going on.”

Burkhalter says each room has its own air conditioning system, but parents feared that their kids walking through the lobby and other parts of the building might be enough to result in the inhalation of dangerous fibers.

A spokesperson for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division said he could not say without investigation whether or not students would have been exposed from such limited access.

Pittsburgh High School Too Risky for Students

Administrators from Pittsburgh Public Schools warned the school board at a meeting this week that asbestos-ridden Schenley High School should not remain open.

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, city schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt has recommended closing the Oakland school “because of the $76.2 million estimate for upgrading mechanical systems and removing asbestos and the subsequent danger of exposing students to the risk of falling plaster laden with asbestos.”

Board members asked if Schenley would be unsafe if it were opened in September. Administrators didn’t mince words.

“That could very well be yes,” answered Paul Gill, the district’s chief operations officer. “I think it’s a dangerous situation. Our experts think it’s a dangerous situation.”

Superintendent Mark Roosevelt told the board that it should not be waiting until a school is unsafe to close it. “That would be utterly irresponsible,” he said. “You close a school when you are warned to.”

District officials reported that they did not find any unsafe air quality readings inside the building but would prefer to abide by the reports of consultants from four firms, all of whom believe Schenley High School should be closed immediately.

Contaminated Former WTC Building To Be Demolished

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has designated $37.5 million dollars for the deconstruction of the former Deutsche Bank tower, which is situated south of the former World Trade Center towers.

The former Deutsche Bank building has been deemed unsafe after several contaminants, including asbestos, were found within the structure. Construction work on the building was stopped during the summer of 2007 after two firefighters were killed at the site.

Funding for the demolition will come from Federal funds that have been set aside for the repair of various structures in and around the WTC site. Due to the heavy contamination of the Deutsche Bank tower, Mike Murphy, spokesman for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., says that the demolition must begin immediately.

Exposure to asbestos has been conclusively connected to the eventual onset of mesothelioma, a deadly lung cancer that has a survival rate of less than 1% and no known cure.

University Offers Online Asbestos Training

In order to comply with Washington State Department of Labor & Industry regulations, the University of Washington has begun to offer online asbestos awareness training to its employees, which will help them avoid asbestos or recognize it when it is found.

According to an article in the university’s newspaper, The Daily, more than 2,000 employees have already completed the course during the last two months.

“Our goal is to have all employees take the course,” said Roy Smith, an asbestos compliance analyst at UW Environmental Health & Safety. “What we’re trying to promote is to report damage of buildings and ensure better maintenance.”

Smith, who believes the convenience of taking the course online attracts employees to sign up for it, says that a large number of the university’s buildings contain asbestos, particularly those that were built prior to 1980. In most cases, he notes, it is found in flooring, ceilings, and pipe insulation.

“We’re trying to get people to have a mindset to assume everything has asbestos,” said Stuart Cordts, a heath and safety supervisor at the UW. He said the course will help management avoid confusion about what products contain asbestos and will assist everyone in taking precautionary measures should they encounter the dangerous mineral.

Smith reminds everyone, however, that most asbestos-containing materials do not pose a health hazard unless they are damaged or “friable”, which means they can release toxic airborne fibers.

“With effective management in place, asbestos is not a health hazard,” Smith said. “It’s not a high risk to anybody as long as they are generally aware … [and it] doesn’t warrant panic.”

In the online training course, employees are advised to report damaged asbestos to supervisors in order to prompt quick repair. They are also advised of simple steps they can take to avoid exposure, such as placing mats under chairs that may be scraping asbestos-containing floor tiles.

Asbestos Debris Plagues Neighborhood for Two Years

A Cheyenne, Wyoming neighborhood is finally seeing their nightmare end as a lot full of friable asbestos debris is cleaned up after more than two years of complaints by local residents.

According to an article in the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, asbestos fragments were discovered on the lot in 2006 but authorities disagreed with residents as to whether the asbestos was or was not a hazard.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took air samples to measure the asbestos concentration in December 2006, but officials declared that the material was not friable,” the article states. When asbestos becomes friable, it is easily crumbled and can release toxic fibers into the air, which can be inhaled by those in the vicinity.

Neighbors then hired their own consultant, who determined that there was indeed friable material at the site. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality was called in next and their representatives also found friable asbestos on the property. At that point, The Solid and Hazardous Waste Division administrator contacted the Joska and Kornegay Family Trust, the owners of the land, and requested a written plan of removal and disposal.

“They stepped up and decided to do something about it,” said neighbor Terry Chapman.

The article notes that the property could not be cited with a zoning violation because when the area was zoned in the 1970s, the property was grandfathered under a non-conforming use for dumping construction debris. That angered many neighbors who viewed the site as a health hazard.

The clean-up is estimated to take three or four days and produce 40 truckloads of material, much of which will contain asbestos.

Man Says Meso Caused By Grandfather

An Arizona resident has filed an asbestos suit in Madison County, Illinois against 59 defendants alleging their negligence led to his disease, the asbestos-caused cancer mesothelioma.

Jesus Manriquez claims that he was exposed to asbestos both during employment and while performing home and auto repairs. He also alleges that he was exposed to the toxic mineral dust that his grandfather would bring home on his clothes while employed as a laborer at Kennecott Copper from 1930 to 1947.

“Dust created by working with and around asbestos and asbestos-containing products would permeate the person and clothing of the plaintiff and plaintiff’s grandfather,” the complaint states. “This dust contained asbestos fiber.”

The suit says that Manriquez’s grandfather would then bring the dust home on his clothes where it would once again become airborne.

Personally, Manriquez was employed was from 1959 through 1993 as a laborer and heavy equipment operator at various locations throughout both Arizona and Illinois. His suit alleges that “the defendants knew or should have known that the asbestos fibers contained in their products had a toxic, poisonous and highly deleterious effect upon the health of people” and that “the defendants included asbestos in their products even when adequate substitutes were available and failed to provide any or adequate instructions concerning the safe methods of working with and around asbestos.”

In addition, the complaint states that employees were never instructed on proper hygiene practices designed to reduce or prevent carrying asbestos fibers home.

Granddaughter of Meso Victim to be Keynote Speaker

The young granddaughter of a Pennsylvania mesothelioma victim has been invited to be the keynote speaker at the gala dinner for the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, which will be held tonight in Washington, D.C.

According to an article in the Allentown Morning Call, twelve-year-old Lexi Miletto was just 9 years old when she wrote letters to a number of medical foundations, congressmen, and celebrities, telling them about her Grandpa Joe, with whom she was particularly close. Joe died of mesothelioma three years ago.

Her letters have not yet prompted a response from Oprah Winfrey or President Bush, but they did attract the attention of June Breit of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation in Santa Barbara, Calif. That’s why Breit invited Lexi to speak to a ballroom full of doctors, researchers, and advocates involved in the fight to ban asbestos and offer more and better treatments for victims of asbestos-related diseases such as the one that killed Lexi’s Grandpa Joe.

”We wanted to show the full spectrum of the disease’s effect on families,” said Chris Hahn, the foundation’s executive director. ”How inspiring it is that this young gal going into eighth grade has this concern for a much bigger national problem.”

Though Lexi was shocked by the offer, it didn’t take her long to decide to give the speech. “I was very excited about it,” she said. ”It means a lot to me because I want to raise awareness for others so they won’t have to suffer like my grandfather did.”

Joe Miletto worked at a number of hard-labor jobs that may have exposed him to asbestos, including demolition. His widow believes he may have also encountered the toxic mineral during his stint in the U.S. Navy.

Lexi hopes to become a doctor and join in the fight against mesothelioma. ”We are the future generation,” she said, quoting her speech. ”We’re going to have to take up the task of finding a cure.”

Administrators Say School is Clear of Asbestos

Tattnall County school district administrators announced yesterday that parents’ concerns about asbestos in the Collins Elementary School near Savannah are unfounded and that the children attending classes there are perfectly safe.

According to a story aired on WTOC – TV, officials said that any concerns over asbestos hazards in the school, caused by a renovation project, have been cleared. Questions arose about the safety of the children in Collins’ summer school program when contractors began to tear up an old ceiling to run new telephone and internet wiring. The ceiling of the 50-year-old building contains asbestos, which is typical in older schools, but the material is normally contained by a drop down ceiling, the television report notes.

Two parents later contacted the TV station to report their concerns that asbestos particles had made their way into the classrooms where their children were studying during summer school.

School administration released a statement which explained that the summer school classes were taught in another building, but they requested an air quality test anyway in order to appease concerned parents.

Principal Dr. Jeannie Burkhalter said yesterday that results showed the smallest traces of asbestos in some samples and none in others. “The legal limit is 70 structures of asbestos per unit (of air),” she said. “We had one particle per unit. In fact, they told us the air inside was better than the air outside.”

Burkhalter stated that renovation work, which ceased during the testing, had resumed and should be finished in two to three weeks.

Suit Says Insurance Company Tried to Conceal Asbestos Dangers

A recent asbestos lawsuit filed in Texas on behalf of resident Jerry Martin and his wife Barbara alleges that insurance companies like MetLife conspired to conceal the truth about the hazards of the toxic mineral.

According to an article in the Southeast Texas Record, a lawyer acting on the Martins’ behalf has filed suit against 14 defendants, including Union Carbide, MetLife, Able Supply Co., Freeman Hardware and Pump Co. and Garlock Inc.

The article notes that Mr. Martin worked with and installed asbestos products throughout the county while employed by Freeman from 1962 through 1970.

“The illnesses and disabilities of (Jerry) Martin are a direct and proximate result of the negligence of each Defendant and/or its predecessor-in-interest in that said entities manufactured, distributed, designed, sold … and put into the stream of commerce, asbestos-containing products, including asbestos-containing pipe … which Martin worked around,” the suit says.

The suit continues, claiming that Metropolitan Life was also “negligent in failing to convey and actively suppressing information regarding the dangers of asbestos.”

“The defendant, an insurer of the major asbestos manufacturers, had unique knowledge of the asbestos disease and experience of its insurers,” the suit says.

“In order to minimize its claims and maximize its profits, MetLife aided and abetted the concealment and misrepresentation of scientific studies showing that asbestos could cause cancer in animals, participated in an industry-wide fraud and decades-long deception of government authorities and the workers who used and handled the asbestos products of its insurers.”

NYS Medical Center Faces Heavy Fine After Improper Asbestos Removal And Disposal

The Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center will have to pay a significant fine after a U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector discovered a lack of appropriate asbestos removal and disposal during a December 2007 remodeling project. The inspection, which was ordered after a medical center employee made a complaint, turned up an array of possible health risks.

“There was a breakdown of essential precautions before, during and after this work,” claimed Arthur Dube, the Buffalo-area OSHA Director.

The inspection report states that employees did not wear proper safety equipment, including protective clothing and breathing apparatuses. In addition, employees did not properly dispose of the asbestos-containing materials during the renovation process. There were also no air quality tests conducted before, during or after the remodel was completed.

The OSHA’s report indicated that Niagara Falls Med Center officials did comply with inspectors and began working to remedy the situation immediately. The center has 15 days to pay a hefty $110,000 fine.

“The medical center’s failure to supply and ensure these basic and required safeguards placed these employees at risk of debilitating disease,” said Dube.

Exposure to asbestos has been linked to the eventual development of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that attacks the pleural lining of the lungs. Mesothelioma can lie dormant in the body for up to fifty years, and mesothelioma victims will generally survive for an average of two years upon diagnosis. There is no known cure.

Concerns over the lack of air quality tests remain, as workers have no way of knowing if they were exposed to high levels of asbestos while working at the medical center.