Several contractors and the Manhattan Beach Unified School District in California were cited by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) for “illegal removal, handling and disposal of asbestos” at a local high school.
SCAQMD received a complaint on Aug. 16 that flooring materials containing asbestos were being disturbed at the school during renovations, which were also taking place during registration while students, parents and staff were on-site. The agency immediately sent inspectors to the school and found that workers had used a power grinder on the storage floor of the library.
Asbestos is a durable and fire-resistant mineral that was widely used in construction materials like flooring tiles until the 1980s, when its use was restricted due to serious health risks associated with asbestos exposure. Asbestos can cause serious lung diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive form of cancer that develops in the tissue that surrounds the lungs and other internal organs. It can take up to 50 years for asbestos-related diseases to develop. Once diagnosed, the disease usually proves fatal within a year or two.
Asbestos-containing materials can still be found in older buildings and homes. The material should not pose any health risks if the material is not disturbed. But if disturbed, as during renovations or demolitions, the microscopic fibers of asbestos can go airborne and be inhaled or ingested, increasing a person’s risk of disease.
“During demolition and remodeling activities it’s not uncommon to encounter flooring materials, such as sheet vinyl, vinyl or asphalt floor tiles, that contain asbestos,” said Michael Chapman, Laboratory Manager at LA Testing’s Huntington Beach facility. “Any associated paper-like backing, mastic, adhesives or glues may also have asbestos. Even without construction taking place, asbestos-containing flooring can become friable over time and in some circumstances release fibers into the air just due to normal activities. In this instance, the flooring should have been tested before it was disturbed so the proper safety precautions could have been put in place.”