Asbestos Found in Illinois Junior High Prompts Concern



Tags: asbestos, school, illinois, parents, students, debris, exposure, mesothelioma, cancer, normal

Pat Guth contributes news and insightful content for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Patricia Guth

March 01, 2012

Normal, Illinois - Earlier this week, parents of students who attend Chiddix Junior High School in the town of Normal, Illinois were notified that a small amount of asbestos was found in debris located near the windows of the school back in November, prompting concern about air quality and the dangers of asbestos exposure.

According to an article in the Bloomington, Illinois-based Pantagraph newspaper, the debris was discovered nearly 4 months ago but the source of the asbestos was just identified last week. Though the local Department of Health has been called in to further investigate the situation, parents have been told that they should not be concerned for the safety of the 646 students that attend the school.

McLean County Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus explained in a letter to parents/guardians that the first testing of the debris revealed the fact that there were indeed small amounts of asbestos present. A second testing came back clean and a third test was completed this week. Results of that test will be available shortly.

In the meantime, the school has sealed off the area above the windows in question as well as portions of the old ceiling where asbestos tiles or insulation may be present. The district is also performing specialized cleaning of the area in hopes of avoiding any exposure to toxic asbestos dust.

Unit 5 is currently considering the details of a relocation plan, but the district has announced that they have not yet found it necessary to move any students, staff, or faculty to different locations.

A large percentage of U.S. schools built before 1980 were constructed using a plethora of materials that contained asbestos. As these materials age, the asbestos becomes “friable”, making it easy for dangerous sharp fibers to be released into the air and inhaled by those working nearby. Asbestos exposure can eventually cause damage to the lungs and the development of diseases such as mesothelioma cancer.

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