The Montebello Unified School District, located in the Los Angeles area, is suing two companies they claim sent untrained workers to their schools, resulting in an asbestos mess that may have exposed individuals to the toxic mineral.
According to an article in the Whittier Daily News, the district alleges that the two businesses in question sent in workers who had no idea how to handle asbestos, which they encountered while installing energy efficient lighting at various schools in the busy district. Named in the $3.5 million suit are Evergreen Energy Solutions LLC and Enveniam, LLC. The former is headquartered in Industry, California and the latter in Roswell, Georgia.
The suit states that the two companies and district officials met before the work at Montebello Gardens Elementary, Montebello Intermediate, and Bell Gardens High School began. It notes that administrators at the meeting stressed that it was “critical that the contractor had the requisite eight hours of asbestos awareness training at a minimum” before work could be done on these three properties Apparently, that training did not occur.
About a month later, in August 2015, it was discovered that workers at the Intermediate School disturbed asbestos materials while working in two separate classrooms, allowing errant asbestos fibers to enter the rooms. All construction activities were halted and it was discovered that Enveniam “had used uncontrolled methods by untrained asbestos workers to spread asbestos-containing materials throughout not only Montebello Intermediate, but to other sites, as well,” according to the lawsuit.
A massive clean-up was then instituted to ensure that students would not be subject to exposure when they entered the classrooms and other parts of the buildings just a few weeks later.
The total cost of the clean-up was $3.5 million, hence the amount of the lawsuit being forged by the Montebello Unified School District.
Asbestos in schools isn’t unusual. Most institutions of learning that were built prior to the late 1970s likely contain materials that were manufactured using asbestos. Floor and ceiling tiles containing asbestos are very common in schools as are asbestos-containing textured or acoustic ceilings and other similar materials. Some schools even have asbestos stage curtains that were installed decades ago, meant to impede fires that could have injured students and staff. Instead, these fireproofing materials are now hazards, especially when damaged or manipulated in any way.
In the United States, the EPA demands that school districts have a list of where asbestos materials are located within their buildings and the general public has a right to view those lists. In addition, schools are supposed to have trained individuals on site who know how to handle an asbestos emergency so that no one is exposed. School districts that do not follow these rules are subject to heavy fines.
Though school employees aren’t at highest risk for developing mesothelioma, there have indeed been a number of school teachers who’ve developed the disease due to on-the-job exposure. Teachers who believe they were exposed to asbestos should submit to regular check-ups that include chest x-rays or lung capacity tests in order to determine that their system has not been compromised by asbestos inhalation.