Posts

The back-to-school season is full of excitement, and let’s face it…sometimes stress and worries. To-do lists are long, to-don’t lists are sometimes even longer. One thing you shouldn’t have to worry about is the safety of your children in their school environment.

Fall is not only the back-to-school season but also a time to shed light on mesothelioma awareness. September 26th is Mesothelioma Awareness Day and is followed by Healthy Lung Month in October. Though mesothelioma is often thought of as an “old man’s disease,” it can be a danger to people of all ages.  Recent news headlines report asbestos contamination in children’s products, indicating our students are among those at risk.

What is asbestos?

Safe and Sound Schools has featured information on asbestos in the past. The important takeaways to know about this mineral are that it was once widely used, is not banned in the United States and that people are still definitely at risk of exposure. For children, the most likely way to come into contact with asbestos in schools is known as third-wave exposure.

These exposure cases stem from products that were manufactured long ago and that have asbestos fibers in them. These fibers lay dormant until disturbed. Asbestos was used as an additive for heat and electrical insulation and is often present in building materials. Once these materials degrade, are uncovered, or are improperly removed, the fibers are released.

The fibers can stay airborne for up to 72 hours, where they are at risk of being inhaled or settling onto other surfaces, like hair and clothing, that may be disturbed again. Upon inhalation, asbestos fibers embed themselves in sensitive internal tissues and can lead to scarring, tumors, and eventually cancer.

How is it a danger to children?

Asbestos is a danger to everyone. It has a dubious history of regulations in the United States that have lead to many lawsuits and a lot of confusion about how common it actually is. Litigation around asbestos exposure cases mainly focused on occupational cases in its heyday.

These numerous and costly lawsuits lead the EPA to issue the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule in 1989, which was then overturned by 1991. This left the United States without comprehensive asbestos regulations and citizens without protection from the dangerous material. Conversely, developed nations like Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom do have full bans.

These back-and-forth stances on asbestos have led the general public to believe that the mineral is banned when it is only laxly regulated. This makes it difficult for parents to know exactly when their family may be exposed.

Children are most likely to encounter asbestos at school in two ways; either the school building itself or in contaminated products like school supplies and children’s cosmetics. A report ordered jointly by Senators Markey (MA) and Boxer (CA) estimated that 69.5% of local education institutes still contained asbestos in their facilities.

The report also asserted that “the states do not appear to be systematically monitoring, investigating or addressing asbestos hazards in schools.” The last comprehensive report on asbestos in schools was conducted in 1984 and little updated data on the scope of this problem has been released since then.

The EPA’s Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) requires all public and non-profit schools districts to develop and maintain an asbestos response plan. However, according to Markey and Boxer’s report, “states do not report conducting regular inspections of local education agencies to detect asbestos hazards and enforce compliance.”

Recent news headlines also underscore that without regulation, asbestos can end up in any product. Last year, asbestos was found in a brand of crayons by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG). On the side of good news, their testing in 2015 revealed asbestos in many brands of crayons, but by 2018 the fibers were present only in one brand’s products.

There is no “safe” level of exposure to asbestos, but like cigarette smoking, repeated exposure increases your chance of contracting a health issue. Contaminated art products present particular harm since they are used frequently and are susceptible to breaking. Also, as anyone with a child can attest, things that shouldn’t be eaten are sometimes ingested by little ones.

What you can do to mitigate the risks

While Markey and Boxer’s report seems dubious on the efficacy of AHERA, it is possible for parents to request information from their local school district on compliance to the act. The report also found that most of the AHERA testing conducted recently was not part of the required routine inspections but as a reaction to complaints lodged by parents and school employees.

Since asbestos regulations in the U.S. are lax, being personally vigilant may be the best course of action for parents. There are a number of ways to do this.

  • If your child’s school does not make regular AHERA updates, request for them to do so. You can also request to see the asbestos management plan required by the act.
  • Read all product labels on children’s cosmetics and school supplies and check for any recalls. Products containing talc could also be contaminated with asbestos because the two minerals often co-occur in the ground.
  • If a company has had recalls in the past, avoid them. Check public interest groups like USPRIG for frequent reporting on where toxins may be found.

There are many things to be aware of during the fall season, particularly the safety of our children. Take Mesothelioma Awareness Day and Healthy Lung Month as times to educate yourself on hidden toxins and how to prevent contact with your child or student on a daily basis.

 


Guest Author:
Sarah Wolverton is a cancer advocate for Mesothelioma.com, where she brings attention to carcinogens people come into contact with every day.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CancerAlliance

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MesotheliomaCancer

Editor’s Note:
This blog contains views, and positions of the author, and does not represent Safe and Sound Schools. Information provided in this blog is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Safe and Sound Schools accepts no liability for any omissions, errors, or representations. The copyright to this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

According to ED100, each year, we spend about 6,000 hours awake. Children will spend 1,000 of those hours in school not including after-school programs. National Poison Prevention Week, running from March 17-23, gives us a friendly reminder to discuss some of the hazards hidden in hallways of schools across the globe.

Asbestos

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, close to 132,000 primary and secondary schools are still housing asbestos containing materials (AMCs). While some may feel asbestos is a problem of the past that does not affect students, many may feel differently after reading the following facts:

  • Asbestos is a known carcinogen and was used abundantly and frequently in buildings like homes, offices, and schools until the 1980s. The majority of public and private school facilities across the nation were erected during the era of abundant asbestos use.
  • There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. School districts are mandated to test for asbestos, however, if not at the “level deemed dangerous” no action to eliminate the hazard needs to be taken.
  • In schools, asbestos is popularly found in ceilings and floor tiles, ventilation systems, caulking and adhesives, or sealants and insulation. Due to high foot traffic and building usage, the potential for ACMs decaying very high in schools. When these places become damaged, fibers are released and once inside the organs of the body, cancerous masses can form.
  • Asbestos can remain in the air between 48 and 72 hours, and anyone in close proximity can be at risk for aggressive diseases associated with asbestos, like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Polychlorinated Biphenyls or PCBs refer to a number of chemicals that were banned in the United States in 1979. Although PCBs have been banned for many years, many materials used historically throughout school construction still contain various levels of these toxins. Here are some facts regarding PCBs and the dangers they still pose on society and our classrooms today:

This National Poison Prevention Week, we encourage everyone to be more cognizant of the hazards that exist in the environments around you. A school is a safe haven where students, faculty and parents should all feel safe, and we should do all we can to ensure our school buildings are a healthy place for growth and learning.


Guest Author: Bridget Rooney is a communications specialist with Mesothelioma.com where she works to educate the public on the dangers of asbestos and other toxins found in the home.

Editor’s Note: This blog contains views, and positions of the author, and does not represent Safe and Sound Schools. Information provided in this blog is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Safe and Sound Schools accepts no liability for any omissions, errors, or representations. The copyright to this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them

When parents put their children on a school bus each morning, they are entrusting bus drivers, teachers, classroom aids and administrators with the health and safety of their children. School is supposed to be a secure, happy place for children to learn, grow, make friends and flourish, but when there are toxins in your children’s school supplies, this environment can become dangerous, and in some cases, even life-threatening. Below are some of the worst toxins your children may come in contact with at school, and how you can limit or prevent this exposure.

Benzene

Many children will only agree to go back to school shopping if they are allowed to pick out fun supplies for their classes. For many kids, this can mean glitter pens and scented markers, but parents beware. A carcinogen known as benzene has been found in many brands of dry erase markers, and can harm your children if they even smell the tips of scented magic markers or dry erase markers.

Asbestos

If your children attend a school built before 1970, the walls, floors and ceilings are most likely lined with asbestos-containing insulation. Your children will probably not know they have even come in contact with asbestos, but even trace amounts of secondhand exposure to these fibers can cause mesothelioma. This incurable cancer will eventually manifest in the lining of the lungs, stomach and heart. It typically takes between 20 and 50 years to show symptoms, which are vague, but can include weight loss, chest pain and difficulty breathing.

This poisonous chemical has also been found in many packs of crayons, which makes it especially harmful for children. As the wax from the crayons comes in contact with paper, it disturbs this harmful substance and puts students at risk. If you are concerned about your children being exposed to asbestos from their classrooms or school buildings, attend a PTA or school board meeting to inquire about asbestos management. Schools are legally required to have an asbestos management plan in place and parents are allowed to request access to this plan at any time.

Lead

The most commonly known classroom toxin is lead, which was once used in interior paint, pencils, and mixed into the metal that was used to create desks and chairs. Now, however, lead is being found in different materials that students bring to class. Lead has been discovered in the plastic that comprises both water bottles and lunch boxes, which can potentially make your little one’s food and drinks hazardous.

Lead has been phased out of most metals and even paints, but can still be found in many plastic compounds. To ensure that your children’s lunches do not come into contact with lead, a paper bagged lunch is a safer alternative.

To keep your children protected from toxic chemicals and substances they can come into contact with at school, research the school supplies they will need for classes before you purchase anything, and try to use BPA and additive-free plastics when possible. Your children deserve to be as safe at school as they are in your arms.


Guest Author:
Emily Walsh is the Community Outreach Director for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance (MCA) where her advocacy work helps people become aware of what toxins they are exposed to and how to make simple changes for a healthier life. Emily’s main focus is spreading the word about asbestos to all vulnerable communities to make sure they are aware of the material’s potential health impacts. You can follow MCA on Facebook or Twitter.

Editor’s Note:
This blog contains views, and positions of the author, and does not represent Safe and Sound Schools. Information provided in this blog is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Safe and Sound Schools accepts no liability for any omissions, errors, or representations. The copyright to this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them