Friday, January 31, 2014

Mold and Asbestos Threaten Schools Nationwide

Mold and asbestos found in Hinsdale Middle School after a pipe broke.
Hinsdale Middle School in Illinois (Source)
This past week, mold remediation workers continued to remove mold from Hinsdale Middle School in Illinois. Although the school district planned to have the middle school reopen on February 3rd, asbestos has recently been found inside, delaying the students' return to school. Students and teachers may be relocated to National Louis University by next week, and although air sampling tests showed that there was very little asbestos in the school, the tiny fibers are incredibly hazardous with long-term exposure.

Due to extremely cold weather in Illinois, pipes in the school froze and burst, leading to water damage and mold. Parents and students are excited to return to their local middle school, as the young students have been attending half days at Clarendon Middle School.

Hinsdale Middle School isn't the only school that has suffered as a result of cold weather. Green Farms Elementary School in Westport, Connecticut, suffered water damage and mold when a fire sprinkler burst due to freezing temperatures earlier this month. According to WestportNews, Elio Longo, the school district's business manager, reported that no asbestos was found although mold and lead were found on school grounds and in the hallways.

In Orange, Connecticut, Peck Place School, closed down after a broken pipe flooded the school, revealing insulation and an even bigger problem--asbestos. According to NBC Connecticut, the flooding caused floor tiles to pop; the adhesive used for the tiles contains asbestos, requiring abatement.

Last week, a Dekalb County school in Atlanta, Georgia closed down to remove toxic black mold from the bathrooms after students became ill. After testing, inspectors found enough mold in the ceilings and tiles to call for immediate remediation. Globe Academy, a charter school in Atlanta, closed schools down late last week to keep students and families safe from the hazard.

Schools are supposed to be safe environments for children and their families. Environmental hazards are real threats and must be removed immediately to prevent children from becoming infected by these toxic materials. However, leaking or broken pipes can cause flooding and give rise to the growth of mold. In many cases, after mold was discovered, other dangerous materials, such as lead and asbestos were also found, calling for immediate abatement.

So how risky is it? Mold exposure can lead to irritation of the eyes, skin, and even serious infections in the lungs. Asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma and lung cancer. Children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning as their brains are still developing, and long-term exposure has been linked to shorter lives, lower IQs, and even sociopathic behavior.

How can you help with these problems? Report incidences of hazardous materials, such as asbestos and mold, to your local or state environmental or health department. Additionally, register for a webinar to increase your awareness of these toxic materials or become certified to remove them.

GreenEDU offers a variety of online courses as well as in-person training for asbestos, mold, and lead certification.