Reporters in a small town recently found evidence that students from a local school were put to work on a volunteer project that likely exposed them to asbestos. The situation came to light after a concerned community member saw the high school students working on a site near his home that he knew was contaminated with asbestos. He filmed a brief video which shows students working to remove debris from a former YMCA building. The video is blurry, so it is unclear if the children were wearing protective masks, but they are certainly not wearing the type of industrial protective gear typically used when professional workers remove contamination.
The school principle and students from the school did not respond to inquiries from local reporters.
Tests of the debris on the site by the Environmental Protection Agency in the state where this incident occurred showed the presence of asbestos, but regulators say that it’s impossible to know the extent to which the children may have been harmed. They have advised anyone involved in the project to see a family doctor right away to get a chest x-ray and do respiratory testing. They have also recommended that students create a log of when they have worked at the site and for how long.
This information will be useful when evaluating the fault of the school if any of the students have been harmed by the asbestos.
The man who filmed the video happens to be a professional who removes asbestos, and he has expressed concern for the students as well as anger at the school for exposing them to harm. “We’ve been abating schools for the last 30 years in this town just to keep our kids safe, and then they come in and to save a buck throw a bunch of kids in harm’s way,” he said.
Source: WKYC, “Investigator: Students gut asbestos-filled building,” Tom Meyer, Jan. 8, 2013.
Information about injury claims can be found on our Illinois asbestos exposure page.