Poison Prevention Week: The Two Toxins Most Common in Schools
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.
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 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:
- Many people strongly believe schools today are exposing building occupants to PCBs regularly. As buildings continue to age, the likelihood of exposure increases.
- PCBs have the ability to travel through the air for long periods of time and can be deposited in different areas outside of the original source.
- Exposure to PCBs in our schools affect students catastrophically including later developed cancer, developmental issues, hormone imbalances, weakened immune systems, and other organ damage.
- A school in New York was discovered to have hazardous amounts of PCBs in their window caulking and ground soil leading people to believe this toxin is more common in public structures than we might be aware of.
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