Asbestos Alert: Schools Face Hazmat Crises

The national crisis surrounding deferred maintenance in institutional and commercial facilities is especially acute in K-12 public schools. Many of these schools were built in the 1950s and 1960s and need extensive repairs or replacement. Compounding the challenge facing maintenance and engineering managers in these facilities is a decades-long lack of funding for such work.

The issue often comes to a head when critical problems arise in these facilities, such as the discovery of asbestos that was a common component of school construction. For example, parents of students at a West Baltimore elementary middle school are voicing concerns over possible asbestos work to the roof that will be done while kids are still attending classes, according to an article on

“I have a grandchild here. I have a nephew here,” says Tracey Goggins. “My nephew has asthma and I’m worried about kids and the staff help. I love the school.”

The parents’ hope is for the Rosemont Elementary Middle School to be shut down until the work is complete. The project is scheduled to begin soon and could last up to one year. “The roof is leaking substantially,” said Keith Scroggins, the city school chief operating officer. The roof has not been replaced since the building opened 47 years ago.

Parents received a letter in the mail that stated, “Please note that this project involves removal and demolition of the existing roof, which is old and may contain asbestos.” The letter went on to mention that daily air samples will be taken and that any dust or debris from the roof work will be removed before students and staff return to the building.

“The asbestos is not friable, in that it doesn’t blow away. It’ll be removed under mitigation standards by a certified company,” Scroggins says.

Some parents want more.

“I need for them to assure me that my child is going to be safe; that she is not going to become ill while they’re doing the work on the roof,” Goggins says.

“The project is not going to proceed until four o’clock in the afternoon, when everyone is gone,” Scroggins says. “There will not be any work done, certainly no asbestos removal, while students and staff members are in the building.”

Read: 9 steps to effective hazmat management

Rosemont Elementary Middle School is not alone when it comes to asbestos problems. Many schools were built with asbestos insulation, floor, and ceiling tiles. Plus, a plethora of other building products made use of the mineral.

Asbestos problems in Baltimore are not limited to schools, either. The city has been home to hundreds of hospitals, public buildings, and job sites where workers, visitors, and residents can be exposed to the carcinogenic material.

In fact, it has been proven asbestos has posed health risks to school teachers. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, in a study conducted between 1999 and 2001, found a substantially elevated rate of mesothelioma cancer among U.S. school teachers, whose only known exposure was on the job.

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State Government steps in to investigate asbestos fears after fire

THE State Government is investigating concerns raised by Carina Heights residents in last week’s South-East Advertiser about possible asbestos pollution from last month’s fire at the derelict Salvin Park nursing home site.


The residents said they heard explosions during the latest fire and feared airborne asbestos fibres had contaminated the neighbourhood.

Demolition crews have moved on site after Brisbane City Council issued an enforcement notice to owners TriCare requiring the demolition of all buildings on the Creek Rd site.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland spokeswoman said air monitoring would be conducted around the site.

“Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s Asbestos Unit will inspect the site in conjunction with the demolisher to form a demolition plan, including strategies to protect the local community from exposure to asbestos fibres,” she said.

“We will conduct air monitoring around the site in the coming weeks and take action if required.”

TriCare declined to comment on the residents’ concerns about asbestos.

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Sick building’ investigation ongoing at Grant Sawyer

Asbestos Free Photo

A federal judge on Monday sentenced Joseph J. Chernis IV of Sherman to three years and one month in prison for illegal asbestos removal at the former Pillsbury Mills plant on the north side of Springfield.

Chernis, 35, was indicted in May 2016 for violating federal clean-air regulations by allowing untrained workers to remove and store asbestos between October 2014 and August 2015 at the former mill, where authorities said asbestos was stored in open containers, plastic garbage bags and cardboard boxes. Chernis also was accused of lying about the work in a separate cleanup lawsuit filed by the state of Illinois.

As part of the plea agreement, Chernis pleaded guilty in April of last year to one count each of illegal asbestos removal, demolition and disposal, while the three other counts brought against him were dismissed. He also confessed to obstructing justice.

At the start of the sentencing hearing, Judge Sue Myerscough said she had not decided whether she would stick to the sentencing guidelines of the plea agreement. According to Myerscough, sealed sentencing commentaries recommended a higher sentence than the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to.

“I have grave concerns about the damage to the community in this case,” Myerscough said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Crystal Correa pointed out the federal courts building in downtown Springfield is five minutes away from the mill, which had been full of asbestos.

″(The mill)’s near a park. It’s near Lanphier High School,” Correa said. “It’s in our community.”

Affects of asbestos when it is improperly handled and disposed of include lung cancer, mesothelioma.

Chernis said he wanted to put the episode behind him and that he would take the sentence “like a man.”

“I understand I’ve made some mistakes, some very big mistakes,” Chernis told the judge.

Myerscough noted that though Chernis showed repeated “callous disregard” for the law and the community, letters showed he had some “good” characteristics. She expressed concern for the health of the homeless man that Chernis employed to remove the asbestos and Chernis himself, who was onsite during demolition.

Myerscough did not fine Chernis. But she noted that restitution could be reached through an ongoing civil case brought by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in Sangamon County Circuit Court.

She revealed the new price tag of the asbestos cleanup was $2.5 million; it had been previously reported to be $1.8 million. The cleanup began a year ago and lasted nine months.

However, after hearing that asbestos remains on the 18-acre property within the interiors of the buildings, Circuit Judge John Madonia has refused to lift an injunction that keeps the Chernis and his partners off the site. While the asbestos is no longer an airborne threat, scrapping operations could be considered a hazard, according to project coordinator Kevin Turner.

After the sentencing, Chernis, in an interview, called the government’s cleanup of the site a “joke.”

“I think it’s an overreaction,” Chernis said of his prosecution. “If (the asbestos) is so dangerous, why is it not yet cleaned up? How’s it safe, but you are telling me it’s still there?”

Chernis said he didn’t think anyone was harmed because the asbestos was removed improperly.

“Anybody can make an accusation, but nothing’s been proven,” Chernis said.

According to court records, Chernis’ plant owner partners are his father Joe Chernis III and another Sherman resident, Keith Crain. Both were not charged in the federal indictment. The elder Chernis was at his son’s sentencing but offered no comment.

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Mesothelioma Fears Allayed as Independent Tests of Claire’s Makeup Shows No Asbestos Contamination

Fears of malignant mesothelioma and other related diseases have been haunting parents of teens and preteens after published reports that Claire’s store makeup had been contaminated with asbestos. In response, the chain quickly recalled nine different makeup kits that it had been selling. Now, according to independent laboratories that analyzed the products, there is no evidence of any asbestos in the products.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is among several asbestos-related diseases. In most cases people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos in their workplace, but because the product is still widely used in other countries, there is always a concern that imports may be contaminated. The Claire’s makeup contamination, which was first reported by a Rhode Island news station, indicated that a North Carolina laboratory had found 17 different products purchased at 10 different Claire’s stores around the country were contaminated. Though Claire’s has indicated that their testing was done by “certified” laboratories, the lab that conducted the original testing stands by its results, and questions Claire’s statement. The North Carolina lab prides itself on the sensitivity of the equipment that it uses for asbestos testing: it reportedly uses a transmission electron microscope, where other laboratories use light microscopy or X-ray diffraction processes. Because Claire’s has not revealed the names of the laboratories that conducted their testing, the information they are providing may be questionable. The company also indicated that they had requested the North Carolina lab’s reports, but the lab director has indicated that he has not received any such requests.

The company has revealed that the talc that is contained in the teen makeup products in question came from Merck KGaA, and was accompanied by certificates of analysis showing that it was free of any asbestos contamination. Whether that will ease parent’s mesothelioma fears remains to be seen.

Exposure to asbestos can come from many sources, and any exposure can lead to a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma. If you are concerned about asbestos or have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, contact our Patient Advocates at today. We can be reached at 1-800-692-8608. Article Source:

Galax clinic to reopen after elevated radon levels detected

The Galax clinic closed because of elevated radon levels will reopen.
See full statement from Carilion here:

The Carilion Clinic Galax Family and Internal Medicine practices will resume regular operations Monday, Oct. 2. The Galax Family Practice walk-in acute care clinic and the Vaughn-Bassett Employee Health Clinic will open on Saturday, Sept. 30, for regular hours and operations.

Patients needing to confirm an appointment can call the Galax practice. Internal Medicine can be reached at (276) 236-6136; the Family Medicine practice can be reached at (276) 236-5181.

After consulting with Carilion’s Employee Health Department, safety experts and an independent environmental consultant, we are confident that the building is safe for our employees and patients.

Since Friday, Sept. 22, Carilion Clinic has been working to address the higher than normal radon levels found in the leased facility in Galax (199 Hospital Drive). Out of an abundance of caution, the practice was temporarily closed.

Earlier this week, an environmental consultant retested the building’s air to confirm that radon levels are at an acceptable level per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines (below 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L)). On Wednesday afternoon, we learned that the levels are now below the EPA guideline, at 2.2 pCi/L in the downstairs of the facility and 1.0 pCi/L upstairs.

During the closure, we also took the opportunity to test for mold and asbestos as well. Test results, which were received this afternoon, showed no concerning levels of mold or asbestos in the building.

Given the challenges with air quality in the Galax facility over the past year, we have established quarterly air quality testing.

Thank you to the community for your patience and understanding as we resolved this issue.


A medical clinic in Galax is temporarily closed after concerns of air quality inside the building.

A sign on the door tells patients the location is temporarily closed. Carilion made the decision after a staff member here shared concerns of a potential health hazard.

“It’s frustrating for both the employees, it’s frustrating for the patients, it’s frustrating for Carilion in general,” said Chris Turnbull, the public relations manager for Carilion Clinics.

A test conducted a week and a half ago shows an average radon level of 4.3 picocuries a liter. The accepted level by the Environment Protection Agency is four.

“Our concern is really making sure that our staff are in a healthy place to work so we’re going to take the measures that need to be taken to make sure that this place is safe,” Turnbull said.

That could take some time. Environmental professionals are helping the clinic find where the gas is coming into the building. After that’s corrected more tests have to be conducted.

For now, all staff are working out of another Carilion Clinic in Hillsville, about 25 minutes away.

“We’ve expanded some hours. I know the physicians were concerned. We didn’t want to limit the hours that our patients could get there,” Turnbull said.

 The Hillsville locations number and address is on the door referring all patients there. 276-728-7721, or visit 410 South Main Street in Hillsville.

This is the second time this building has been temporarily closed within the last year. In December a mold issue in some rooms temporarily closed the building for a few days.

Carilion tells us it plans to reopen the clinic as soon as possible, but no date has been set.

Brazil’s Asbestos Ban Will Impact US Imports

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

In a landmark decision, Brazil severed ties with asbestos.

The world’s third-largest producer of chrysotile asbestos, also known as white asbestos, ruled last week to ban the production, distribution and use of the toxic mineral.

Brazil’s Supreme Court on Nov. 29 voted 7 to 2 on the measure to ban the substance responsible for deadly mesothelioma and other diseases.

The vote makes Brazil the most populous country to ban asbestos, according to the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS). China, India and the United States — countries with populations that surpass the South American nation — still use chrysotile in some capacity.

According a 2017 study from the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Geological Survey reported the U.S. imported 340 metric tons of raw chrysotile asbestos last year. Roughly 95 percent came from Brazil, with the remaining 5 percent imported from Russia.

In a blog from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), its co-founder, Linda Reinstein, wrote: “Since 2013, the USA has spent an estimated $4 million buying tons of asbestos from Brazil to be used by chloralkali industry.”

The industry, which uses durable and fireproof asbestos diaphragms in its chlorine manufacturing process, is responsible for nearly all imports.

A total of 62 countries have banned asbestos, according to IBAS. The U.S. remains one of the few industrialized countries without a ban or phase-out plan in place. Of the 10 most populous countries in the world, only Brazil and Japan have passed comprehensive legislation to ban asbestos.

Roughly 10,000 Americans die each year from preventable asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

“This decision will have a global impact on the market. It will create a domino effect,” Fernanda Giannasi, advisor to Brazil’s Association of the Asbestos-Exposed, told BBC Brazil. “If an asbestos-producing country like Brazil is capable of making such a decision, why wouldn’t it be followed by those countries that buy asbestos?”

US May See Spike in Russian Asbestos

With Brazil’s ban, anti-asbestos advocates fear the U.S. may turn to Russia for its asbestos needs.

Russia is the long-standing world leader in asbestos mine production, with 1.1 million metric tons each year — more than 50 percent of the world total. It is also the world’s second-largest consumer, trailing only China.

More than 438,000 Russians depend on asbestos factories and mines for their livelihood, according to the New York Times.

More Countries Moving to Ban Asbestos

Four nations have vowed to ban asbestos in the past 12 months.

Once considered the world leader in asbestos production, Canada remains on track to ban the toxic mineral by 2018. Asbestos is the leading cause of occupational deaths in Canada.

In June, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine announced the country had adopted a ban on the use of all types of asbestos. However, the Ukrainian government has since backtracked on that promise, saying it may delay the implementation of the ban following political and economic pressure from the asbestos industry.

On Nov 27, Svetlana Bolokan — head of Moldova’s Department for Management of Waste and Chemicals — announced the country intends to ban the sale and import of chrysotile asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2019.

Moldova had previously pledged to phase out asbestos-containing materials by 2020.

Brazil’s ban is monumental because asbestos is still a large part of the Brazilian economy. Reinstein, according to her blog, says the decision reaffirms there is no safe or controlled use of asbestos.

Roughly 125 million people are exposed to asbestos at the workplace, according to the World Health Organization. Scientific evidence has concluded all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans.

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