Published on September 24, 2010 at 12:40 AM
By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Asbestos, known to be the cause of malignant mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer for which there currently is no cure, is still found in the playground of Tewantin State School in Tewantin, Queensland, Australia. Since the beginning of 2009 asbestos has been reported numerous times at the school. Repeated exposures to the toxic material over 20 to 50 years may lead to this cancer.
Since 2009 a total of eight cases of asbestos discoveries have been reported at the Tewantin State School. The area is cordoned off to prevent students and faculty members from entering the contaminated area until the asbestos has been removed. Graham Atkins of Education Queensland’s Infrastructure Services says asbestos-contaminated sand was removed from the sand pits and access was restricted to the affected areas.
Previous studies have shown that children are more susceptible to asbestos exposure than adults. Asbestos exposure during youth can result in the development of asbestos-related diseases much quicker than being exposed as an adult.
At Wentworth Intermediate School heavy amount of asbestos was discovered in the windows. The school has over 730 students studying in grades 3 and 5. Todd Jepson, newly appointed Facilities Director, said that the project of replacing two windows in classrooms might cost over $100,000. Ceiling panels containing asbestos in two classrooms at a Cairns school in far north Queensland are being repaired over the school holidays. Children and staff in two teaching areas had to be moved to other classrooms during the last week of term after damaged ceiling panels tested positive for asbestos.
According to Education Queensland infrastructure spokesman Graham Atkins, “The areas remained closed until the results of samples of the suspected sheeting were tested for asbestos…Any area found to be requiring attention will be dealt with in accordance with asbestos management guidelines.” Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens’ Associations president Margaret Leary said parents were satisfied with the way the asbestos problem was handled.
Asbestos is not yet banned in the US but it is regulated. Any product that has less than 1 percent asbestos (which can amount to millions of toxic fibers depending upon the product), it is considered by law in the United States to be “asbestos-free.”