School Students Live with Asbestos

Students at the Eisenhower High School in Yakima, Wash. have learned to live with the fact that their school contains asbestos and they need to be careful not to disturb it.

A Yakima Herald-Republic article reports that some kids might not know what the dangerous mineral is called or why it should be avoided, but they know certain things are off limits so as to avoid exposure to the toxic material. For example, in the gym, students aren’t allowed to throw balls toward the ceiling; if the ball hits the ceiling it could cause asbestos fibers to meander through air.

Dwight Eisenhower High School, also affectionately known as “Ike”, was built in 1956 when asbestos use was at its peak. According to Jim Wright, the assistant principal and student services director at the school, the ceilings contain asbestos as does the adhesive used to glue down the floor tiles. Some of the pipe lining is also insulated with asbestos.

Over the years, some of the asbestos materials have aged and become friable. Some of the hazardous material has been abated and replaced with other safer materials. Other asbestos remains but is carefully watched by school maintenance staff.

“It’s kind of weird to think that asbestos is at Ike,” says 15-year-old Anne Smart, Ike’s sophomore class president. But, “Other than not hitting the balls toward the ceiling, it doesn’t really worry me.”
Smart says she feels safe, and that if asbestos at Ike was truly a big problem “we wouldn’t be allowed to come to school.”

In the meantime, certified inspectors come in every 2 years for a thorough review of the areas where asbestos is present. They look for upturned or torn tiles and damaged pipe or furnace insulation.
The school nurse is also on the lookout for any students that may exhibit respiratory problems associated with asbestos inhalation. So far, says nurse Marjorie Miles, she hasn’t spotted any major health concerns.

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