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Could your school contain asbestos-tainted materials?

Recently, a class of plaintiffs in another state accused a school district of failing to warn school employees and students that there was asbestos and lead in many of the district's buildings. According to the lawsuit, the school district received test results in 2016 from environmental engineers identifying asbestos in several schools. Despite having that information, the district took no action until January 2020.

Although this case takes place in Scranton, Pennsylvania, there is good reason to suppose that many local schools have the same problems with asbestos. This is because asbestos was widely used for a variety of building purposes before 1978 and continues to be used on a more limited basis today. Therefore, many buildings contain asbestos components, especially older buildings.

Building materials that may contain asbestos include:

  • Insulation of all types, including pipe insulation
  • Heating components
  • Flooring
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Textured wall or ceiling coating
  • Roofing felt
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Electrical components
  • Gaskets and rope seals
  • Fireproof textiles
  • Vinyl wallpaper
  • Vermiculite

If the asbestos is left undisturbed, it's possible that it won't become airborne and put people at risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related lung cancers. However, asbestos-laden materials can break down or become damaged over time, releasing the deadly asbestos fibers into the air. And, maintenance and refurbishing projects can disturb asbestos-containing materials.

In the Scranton lawsuit, one plaintiff is a former janitor who worked in several schools thought to have asbestos materials. During his 16-year career, he participated in the removal of old insulation, along with scraping paint and plaster. Those are the type of activities that could release asbestos into the air.

According to various international and national authorities including the EPA, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.

The Pennsylvania lawsuit seeks to represent current and former employees, students, parents and others who spent time in Scranton schools after the environmental engineering reports identified asbestos in the buildings. The plaintiffs are seeking damages, but also money for a fund that would provide medical monitoring for the plaintiff class.

Asbestos contamination in buildings is not exclusive to schools. If a building was built before 1978, it's important to be safe and assume the building has asbestos-laden materials. If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, talk to an attorney who handles cases involving mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases.

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