Asbestos Exposure in Schools, a Global Issue

Mesothelioma. It’s a condition we all may have heard about on television but don’t know what it really is. Simply put, mesothelioma is a form of cancer in the lungs that is caused by exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos is a building material known for its heat-resistant qualities. Its heat resistance made it a primary building material for structures like work offices, ships, and apartments built before the 1980s.

Today, many people work, learn, and reside in buildings that contain asbestos, many of which are schools. As a result, there are thousands of young children and teachers who are unknowingly exposed to asbestos on a daily basis. Since asbestos exposure cannot be seen or felt, this is a serious long-term health issue.

How Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?

Although asbestos is not a prerequisite for mesothelioma, the American Cancer Society says about 8 in 10 mesothelioma diagnoses are the result of asbestos exposure.

When someone is exposed to asbestos for prolonged periods of time, asbestos fibers may travel through the lungs and reach the pleura, where it may cause scarring and inflammation. The asbestos may damage the pleural cells’ DNA and cause uncontrolled, cancerous cell growth over time.

In the event asbestos is swallowed, the fibers may reach the abdominal lining and cause peritoneal mesothelioma.

Although asbestos exposure can lead to high rates of mesothelioma, most people exposed to large amounts do not always get mesothelioma. Likewise, mesothelioma typically requires the asbestos to be “disturbed” or otherwise released into the air. As such, still-standing asbestos is not a threat until it becomes airborne.

Why Asbestos in Schools is an Issue

Old school buildings liberally used asbestos as an effective, cheap means to insulate warmth and prevent fires. Although most buildings have removed asbestos during renovations or by using new facilities, other schools have neglected these improvements due to limited funding. Unfortunately, this material can result in drastic long-term respiratory harm if left untreated.

Since the school day is so long and teachers especially are exposed on a near-daily basis, school districts around the world have had issues dealing with workers’ compensation and child endangerment claims.

In Philadelphia, school officials stated that 174 of the 214 district schools contain asbestos somewhere in the building. Moreover, a total of seven Philadelphia public schools closed due to asbestos exposure concerns last school year. As a result, the city faces child endangerment charges and workers compensation cases.

Asbestos exposure is an issue abroad as well. The United Kingdom’s Office of National Statistics reports that 292 British teachers have passed away due to mesothelioma dating back to 2005. That rate comes out to approximately one teacher death every two weeks.

With this global concern, many are considering how legal action may enact change and protect students and teachers alike from a slow, silent killer.

Asbestos, Mesothelioma and the Law

Like other infrastructure liability, factors like exposure levels and exposure duration can dictate whether or not an asbestos case will hold up in court.

Moreover, depending on the status of the exposed individual, prolonged asbestos exposure may constitute child endangerment or workers’ compensation liability if untreated for a long period of time.

“In some cases, failure to disclose the presence of asbestos or failure to renovate asbestos-laden buildings can build a liability case,” says Attorney Christopher Murphy of Doran & Murphy. “In those circumstances, hardworking asbestos exposure attorneys will consider the circumstances and how lacking asbestos management may have endangered your health or caused injury.”

Scientists and advocacy groups agree there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. If a school does not undergo treatment, teachers, staff, and students are all at risk for health dangers.

Ultimately, legal action may be the avenue for vulnerable teachers and students to be protected in schools. When considering an asbestos exposure case, contact a seasoned asbestos attorney to examine your situation and legal options.