A Toronto Catholic high school was closed after its air ducts tested positive for asbestos. Asbestos is a heat-resistant fibrous silicate mineral. It is often woven into fabrics to make them fire-resistant. It is also used in a number of insulating materials.
Asbestos is naturally occurring, but it is hazardous to our health. Because of its resistance to heat and high temperatures, it was used for years to make a number of housing materials such as shingles, ceiling tiles, cement compounds and other textiles.
Asbestos testing is quite normal these days, since we have learned just how toxic the materials are to our health.
In Toronto, the testing was done after work on the school’s swimming pool and changing rooms were completed. The school, St. Patrick Catholic Secondary School, is located in the Greenwood and Danforth Avenues area.
Experts reported that they sampled the grout in the changing rooms and noted that it contained 1.5% asbestos. While that is not a great deal of this harmful substance it still renders the grout a ‘asbestos-containing substance’ which causes concerns. It was possible that dust from the construction had entered the ventilation system of the school, which meant that it was possible that asbestos was in that dust and students, and teachers, could breathe it in.
The Ministry of Labour had the entire school tested for asbestos. The tests found that four of the buildings’ 17 air ducts were positive for asbestos.
The ducts were then cleaned and as an added precaution further air quality asbestos testing is being performed to make sure that the asbestos has not become airborne.
A leading researcher at the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Fe de Leon, notes that these are the correct steps for the board to take. She notes that going the extra mile is important, especially in the interest of children’s safety.
She notes that with asbestos, there is always a cause for concern. While the asbestos percentages in the school were very low, it is always good to clean it up, and get rid of it, whenever possible.
During the cleanup, students were moved to a nearby school, so that studies are not completely interrupted.
Actually, finding asbestos in schools is not a new phenomenon. The Toronto Catholic District School Boards’ reports find that 175 of their 201 buildings currently contain asbestos. Additionally, they note that any school building built before 1990 most likely contains some asbestos.
If air quality asbestos testing reports are clean, then the St. Patrick Catholic Secondary School will reopen this Wednesday.