Tests Uncover Asbestos in Sealant in Seven Virginia Beach Schools

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School officials have found a small amount of asbestos in sealants applied to the walls at seven Virginia Beach built between 1956 and 1974. Because air samples collected showed levels below the regulatory limits set by OSHA and EPA, the school year is expected to start on time.

School Maintains an Asbestos Management Plan Required by the EPA

School spokesperson Nancy Soscia said that they became aware of the issue after the wall sealant was disturbed during summer maintenance at Plaza Middle School. As a precaution, other older schools in the division were also tested, including Bayside Middle, John B. Dey Elementary, Old Donation Center, Lynnhaven Middle, Great Neck Middle, and Malibu Elementary.

Asbestos is a material that was previously used in construction as an insulator. The fibrous minerals have been linked to lung cancer, asbestosis (lung scarring), and mesothelioma (cancer of the lung cavity lining.) A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that asbestos induces a process called “programmed cell necrosis” that leads to the release of an inflammatory protein called HMGB1 that causes the release of mutagens and factors that promote tumor growth.

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Undamaged asbestos that is properly managed in place poses little health risk to students or staff. However, when the fibers are broken and released into the air, they can be inhaled into the lungs. Examples of potentially hazardous areas include ceiling tiles and wallboard.

Staff has been advised not to drill or nail the pain on the walls at the schools.

The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), passed by Congress in 1986, requires that public school districts and non-profit private schools inspect for asbestos-containing building material and prepare management plans to reduce the hazards. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has primary governmental responsibility for enforcing the regulations of the AHERA.

The School Board of the City of Virginia Beach Public Schools maintains an asbestos management plan, Policy 3-59. This document sets forth the asbestos response actions to be taken, including inspections and both preventive and corrective measures to taken when the material is found in a school. Parents and staff at Virginia Beach Schools are notified about the plan through twice-yearly newsletters.

School officials will continue to monitor through visual assessments every six months, re-inspections every three years and will provide awareness training for the staff.

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