By DANAE KING
The link between asbestos and health problems was discovered decades ago, but many buildings, including public schools, still contain the hazardous material.
Findlay City Schools has 13 buildings with asbestos in them, and a re-inspection of those schools is set for November.
Asbestos isn’t banned, and is legal as long as it is properly contained. Asbestos is a mineral that was used in insulation, fireproofing and other materials for many years. It can be found in floor tiles, roofs, furnaces, plumbing insulation, appliances, fireplaces and window caulking.
“Asbestos that is in good condition and left undisturbed is unlikely to present a health risk,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “The risks from asbestos occur when it is damaged or disturbed where asbestos fibers become airborne and can be inhaled. Managing asbestos in place and maintaining it in good repair is often the best approach.”
If inhaled, asbestos fibers can become lodged in tissue for a long time and can cause cancer.
Materials that include asbestos can be contained by wrapping them with heavy tape such as duct tape. Asbestos also can be encapsulated by treating it with a liquid compound that provides a seal to prevent the release of fibers.
Asbestos also can be enclosed by constructing an airtight, permanent barrier around it.
In Findlay City Schools, much of the asbestos in school buildings was removed in the 1980s, and most of the remaining asbestos has been encapsulated, said Dennis McPheron, director of operations at Findlay City Schools.
“It doesn’t pose a major health issue or problem in the school system,” he said. “We have removed it, identified what’s left, and monitor it.”
School districts are required by federal law to have a contractor come in and assess the asbestos every three years and make a management plan.
Findlay City Schools’ most recent management plan and inspection report, dated 2013, showed 13 district buildings containing asbestos or suspected asbestos.
McPheron said there is still some asbestos under tiles, wrapped around old pipes, on boiler plates and in other areas.
It would take about $663,300 to remove all the contained asbestos from district buildings, according to the 2013 report. Re-inspections are done every three years, and the next one will start in November.
Since the cost to remove asbestos is so high, the district simply monitors it and maintains it in place, as do many other school districts.
Since the last inspection three years ago, the district has paid to remove some asbestos, spending $30,792 to hire area companies to do the work, according to documents obtained by The Courier.
The material was removed from Jacobs Elementary and Findlay High School.
If encapsulated, asbestos is only a concern when buildings are renovated or demolished.
For example, the district demolished Central Middle School in 2013 and paid a company $47,600 for asbestos abatement at the building.
Existing asbestos at schools might be disturbed when a new security device, The Boot, is installed on classroom doors to prevent entry in emergency situations. The school board recently approved the installation of the device.
The Boot is a rectangular-shaped steel plate with two steel pegs, which is mounted on the bottom of a classroom door. Two holes are drilled into the floor, and when the steel pegs are lowered into those holes, the door cannot be opened.
Since there is believed to be some asbestos in the floor tiles of certain buildings, it could be disturbed when the holes are drilled, but school officials are not expecting problems.
“There’s not much they’re going to get into,” McPheron said. “We wouldn’t have to close down the room or building” when drilling.
The Lockdown Co., which makes and installs The Boot, is an approved handler of asbestos, Findlay Superintendent Ed Kurt said during an October board meeting.