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Asbestos test results are above acceptable levels

By Dan Champagne, Record-Journal staff
WALLINGFORD — Holy Trinity School will remain closed today after more than double the amount of asbestos deemed safe by the state Department of Public Health was found in the air on the third floor of the building, officials said Tuesday.

ChemScope company of North Haven collected five air samples from the third floor Monday night while school officials met with parents in the basement of the Most Holy Trinity Church. The school has been closed since Monday after ceiling tiles removed from the building were found to contain asbestos.

Scott Arena, the operations manager for ChemScope, said Tuesday the DPH uses a maximum of 70 structures of asbestos per square millimeter as a guideline for what is considered safe.

Three of the air samples from the third floor came back with 190, 170 and 120 structures of asbestos per square millimeter. Arena said ChemScope did not run the tests on the other two samples because of the consistently high results of the first three.

"It's twice the standard, but I wouldn't call that obscenely bad," Arena said. "It's above the standard and that's the bottom line."

"I had every reasonable assurance" that the school would be open today, Principal Sister Kathleen Kelly said. "I feel that we have an obligation to find out why they believe the results were not acceptable."

Arena said traces of asbestos were also found on the first and second floors, but none were over 70 structures of asbestos per square millimeter. The highest reading on those two floors — a 46 — was taken from the second floor, he said.

"It's not ideally what you would want even though it passes the state standard," Arena said.

"I'm disappointed and frustrated," school board President Larry Russo said. "We never expected these tests to come back with any sort of problem. I'm glad that further testing is going on to make sure everything is safe for the kids."

According to Russo, four parent volunteers removed ceiling tiles from the school basement and placed them in stacks on the floor on March 9.

Last Thursday, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade boys and girls removed the tiles from the basement during school hours and placed them in a Dumpster behind the school. Kelly said about 25 students helped move the tiles.

A concerned parent brought a sample of the tile to ChemScope on Friday, and Russo said, "the testing showed slight traces of asbestos."

Russo contacted ChemScope, which ran tests that came back negative for airborne asbestos. Russo brought in Accurate Insulation of Bristol on Sunday to vacuum parts of the school, and air quality tests afterward also were negative. Because the results did not come in until Monday morning, school was closed Monday and Tuesday as a precaution, Kelly said.

An enforcement agent from the DPH toured the school Monday and suggested the first, second and third floors of the school also be vacuumed, in case students tracked anything upstairs. That is when the airborne asbestos was found.

Arena said Tuesday he was unsure if the asbestos found upstairs was a result of anything the students may have carried with them from the basement or was already there. If the asbestos was tracked from the basement, students on the upper floors would have been exposed to it on Friday.

Arena said the next step is more cleaning and testing. He was unsure how long that would take.

"Nothing would surprise me at this point," Arena said. "I wouldn't be surprised if the kids were back in school on Thursday, and it wouldn't surprise me if they didn't go back to school for the rest of the week."

Ban asbestos, it kills - Union
Accra, June 14, GNA - The International Metalworkers' Federation has reiterated its call to governments to ban the manufacture and the use of asbestos because it kills about 100,000 people each year.

The Federation said governments could do that through the ratification and implementation of the International Convention adopted by the International Labour Organisation in 1986 calling for the global ban of the product. Mr Napoleon Kpoh, General Secretary of Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), who was briefing newsmen in Accra on Tuesday on his return from Vienna where the Federation of 850 members embracing 177 countries passed a resolution calling for the ban of asbestos. He said the conference noted that millions of workers were exposed to asbestos and its fibres which killed more than 100,000 people each year because certain employers and governments persist in using the substance, despite a number of safer alternatives being available.

Quoting from International Monetary Fund (IMF) Report, Mr Kpoh said, "It has taken three decades of continual effort and the emergence of suitable alternative substances for a comprehensive ban on the manufacture and use of asbestos to be adopted in a number of industrialised countries." The Report said the reluctance of some governments to acknowledge the risks associated with asbestos use even extended to their refusal to accept international conventions and guides that, although not as comprehensive as a ban, provide some minimum standards. It said despite the continued controversy surrounding the use of asbestos, demand appears to have expanded in 2003, enabling world production to increase by 5.4 per cent over 2002.

Mr Kpoh said many governments appeared to be in no hurry to ratify and implement the convention and that out of ILO's 177 member states only 27 have ratified the convention. Asbestos can cause cancer in humans because it has microscopic daggers and when inhaled, lodge into lung tissue and "the body's defences cannot break them down, so increased or prolonged exposure can cause a build up of fibres, which work their way deeper into the lungs."

According to the Report, "Inhalation of asbestos fibres could lead to serious diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the lungs or lower digestive tract) and asbestosis (a chronic fibrosis of the lungs.) Mr Kpoh said ironically some developed countries have banned the use of asbestos in their countries yet they were marketing it in developing countries. He said if the substance was banned there were sufficient safe substitute to replace it and ILO has directed that workers who would be out of job should be absorbed in other productive areas that would include social protection as well.

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