Posted on January 11, 2013
In a case of flagrant disregard for public health, a school in Middleburg Heights, Ohio is currently under criminal investigation for allegedly organizing several dozen teenage students and others to remove debris from a building contaminated with asbestos. The group of volunteers, which included students as young as 13 years old, worked without any protective gear during several weekends to gut the building, which a nearby school intends to convert into classrooms and a gymnasium. Although Ohio state law requires building owners to employ certified contractors to remove asbestos, Darren Clink, a neighbor of the building, filmed the volunteers removing asbestos-filled materials. Clink told WKYC, “the entire site was contaminated with asbestos and the people who were doing it were all children. The kids were loaded with it.” Upon analyzing the debris, the state environmental protection agency confirmed that the building’s floor tiles, pipes, and duct were filled with asbestos.
Unfortunately, this is just another tragic incident involving young students and other vulnerable populations being exposed to asbestos.
In 2008, the Washington Post reported in their article, Putting Mentally Disabled at Risk Is No Way to Cut Corners, that when the “Federal Aviation Administration decided to knock down an old guard shack last year on the grounds of the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center in Leesburg […] managers called in a crew of mentally disabled people and put them to work at the site, which had been found in 1993 to contain asbestos.”
In 2009, teenagers were recruited to clean up an abandoned train station in Detroit. After the work was completed, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality found that the debris removed from the station contained friable asbestos. The students were not given respirators or protective clothing.
In 2010, charges were filed against three officers of a non-profit construction training company. The officers allegedly organized as many as 80 teenage student workers to remove asbestos containing material from a building project at the former Castle Air Force Base in Merced County, California. The students did not use appropriate safety equipment and were not notified that they were removing asbestos containing materials.
Last year, in Dunwoody, Georgia, contractors failed to properly dispose of asbestos following a school renovation. The contractors carelessly placed asbestos floor tiles in unsecured dumpsters in a high school parking lot, where it remained for days. According to a neighbor of the school, dust from the debris visibly circulated in the air.
The Middleburg Heights, Ohio exposure serves as yet another example of why the U.S. Surgeon General needs to issue an official asbestos warning that is stronger than the 2009 Surgeon General statement. As asbestos exposure continues, families and public health advocates are growing impatient with the lack of education and enforcement needed to prevent mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases. Join ADAO and partner for prevention by sharing this graphic with your family and friends.
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WKYC “Investigator: Students gut asbestos-filled building” article and video posted on January 8, 2013