Cleveland School Children May Have Been Exposed to Asbestos

Earlier this week, children that attend a Cleveland elementary school were allowed back into the school building, even after a weekend fire in the basement caused concern about the building’s condition. Later in the week, school board officials reversed their decision to keep the school open, closing it for fear that the students were possibly being exposed to asbestos.

At noon on Thursday, the superintendent of schools, in conjunction with officials from the state Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ohio Health Department decided that allowing the students to attend classes at the Nathaniel Hawthorne Elementary School was just too risky.

According to a news story on WKYC, Cleveland’s NBC affiliate, an EPA observer who was canvassing the school early Thursday morning discovered 150 feet of exposed and damaged asbestos covering piping in the basement. Subsequent air tests showed that asbestos particles in the air were at three times the acceptable level.

Original air quality tests done by a contractor to measure general contamination in the air came back at safe levels, but EPA officials believe that the first round of tests were inadequate to properly measure airborne asbestos fibers. Schools CEO Dr. Eugene Sanders disclosed the decision to close after a news conference on another subject.

“We felt for precautionary reasons we would make the decision to close the building. Another assessment has been done and the assessment is slightly higher than the recommended level,” said Sanders.

He added that more testing would be done over the weekend and that if all tests came back at a safe level, the school would re-open on Monday.

In the meantime, some teachers wore masks to school while it was open and parents were upset that their children were allowed to attend school while the environment was unsafe.

“School should have been cancelled when the fire happened. They should never have been open,” said Joe Bonelli, whose two daughters are students at Hawthorne.

Leave a Reply