Asbestos Warning Sign at School Sparks Mild Scare Among Parents and Students

A mere precautionary action by a school in Alabama roused an asbestos scare among the students and parents.  Staff members at Clements High School in Clements, Alabama, posted a sign warning of an asbestos danger that was intended to block off a wing of classrooms.  The sign is posted over plastic and plywood material and is clearly intended to restrict access to a section of the building.

The Sign

The text below the “Danger” and “Asbestos” warnings read:

-CANCER AND LUNG DISEASE HAZARD

-AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY

-RESPIRATORS AND PROTECTIVE CLOTHING ARE REQUIRED IN THIS AREA

Concerned parents and guardians were quick to contact the school in a flood of phone calls, raising issues about the safety and health of students.  School officials stated that students were not in any actual danger from being exposed while workers removed the asbestos from the school.

The Misunderstanding

According to the Principal of Clements High School, Keith Hairrell, “The students were mistaken because it said ‘danger respirators and breathing devices needed in this area.’  They did not understand that meant the area behind the signs that has been sealed off, not the hallways in which they’re walking.”

What was happening in the blocked off area behind the sign was where the danger existed.  Crews of workers were in the process of moving old floor tiles that were known to contain some asbestos, and the staff of the school thought it would be prudent to block off the work area with the sign.  The entire wing where the removal was taking place was blocked off from the rest of the school, and Hairrell further elaborated that only that particular area needed to have tiles removed.

Hairrell underscored his position that there was “no risk to any of our students, our staff, our visitors, or parents on this campus.”

Other Perspectives

The Limestone County Schools Superintendent, Tom Sisk, added that “the company that has been hired to do this is nationally accredited.  We use a forced vacuum system.  They create vapor barriers.  They put up plastic barriers.”  Sisk was very firm that the students were never in any danger, even stating that “At no time are kids at risk,” and that “we wouldn’t be allowed to do it first off.  The state wouldn’t let us do it.  Federal would let us do it.  I want to reassure families that the process is the process but it’s a safe one.”

Sisk also emphasized that the signs were posted not in an effort to scare students and parents, but to fulfill a legal obligation to signify that work was being done.  Sisk assured parents that “The precautions are there” and that the school is expending many resources to ensure that they are performing the work “by the book.”

Dangers of Asbestos Exposure

Exposure to asbestos can have many serious and detrimental health effects, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.  If you believe you have been exposed, you may be eligible for compensation.  Contact an experienced asbestos attorney today.

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