Last week, nearly 800 students returned to Oak View Elementary School for the 2015-16 school year. The campus in Huntington Beach, California, had been closed the previous year when the main school building tested positive for asbestos fibers during a modernization project.
The presence of asbestos, which can cause debilitating respiratory diseases and cancers, displaced thousands of students at three different schools within the Ocean View School District.
Oak View Elementary students returned to campus and were greeted by teachers outside of twenty-five portable classrooms. The main school building remains closed until upgrades are complete.
It is not uncommon for asbestos to be present in older school buildings. The substance was used for fireproofing on metal beams above ceilings, among other places for different reasons. As time goes on and asbestos-containing materials degrade, the risk for exposure increases. Students, teachers, and other school employees can inhale or ingest asbestos fibers as they are released into the air.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration states that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) and its regulations require public school districts and different schools to regularly inspect buildings for asbestos-containing materials and prepare plans for managing and responding to exposure situations.
Do you worry about your child being exposed to asbestos in an older school building? If you fear exposure might have already taken place, do not hesitate to alert a medical professional. Asbestos-related illnesses can take years or decades to develop after exposure takes place.