Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

The Last Day of the School Year Can be the Beginning of Worst Time for the Health of a School Building and Returning Students in the Fall

May 17th, 2017 10:06 PM by Dan Howard

Take the School Lead and Asbestos Awareness Test…… The Kids are Counting on You to Pass Before we Talk Other Less Known Indoor Air Problems 

The Last Day of the School Year Can be the Beginning of Worst Time for the Health of a School Building and Returning Students in the Fall

I bet you have heard the ditty: “No more classes No more books No more teacher’s dirty looks.” Yeh, sure, I know, you never said those words………but you know them.

What happens in the time between the “yippy yea” of end of school and the excitement of a new school year is important. For most students, even if you consider summer breaks, school is the second most important environmental exposure for students after the home. It is in first place of you are looking for the most time spent where the parents don’t have control of the building where their children have exposures. 

The problem is that as the students joyfully run out the front door, there is a set of workers rushing through the back door. They are coming in with deadlines and challenges galore.

It is Complicated

Time limits, budget restrictions, the “surprises” found while projects are being, a lack of knowledge of prior conditions and materials and contractors and staff jostling for access and priorities are all challenges to preventing environmental problems from the work being conducted. 

The staff and contractors have until the students come back to build, paint, remodel, change and manage the building. Their tasks are often from one end of the building to the other and are done without the benefit of a full history of the building and list of all the materials used in prior construction, remodeling and maintenance efforts.  

Unknown or Unrecognized Environmental Hazards

Most parents recognize that lead paint can be a hazard. HUD and the EPA have done excellent work on raising public awareness of this issue. Lead poisoning can affect the brain and neural system of children and leads to permanent damage. It can affect behavior and damages to ability to learn.

Most of us know that most paints before 1978 have lead. What many people do not know is:

·         It was a ban on paint used for residential applications only

·         Lead was still used in commercial paints after that date

·         Lead was in varnish and other finishes in buildings

·         Lead continues to be found in imported painted furnishes and children’s toys    

·         Lead has been found in drinking water

·         Lead dust can accumulate on books stored in closets with peeling paint and other secondary sources.

·         Lead can be found in imported plastic products.

Asbestos is another material that most of us recognize as a potential health risk. Parents know that asbestos is a killer that lurks for decades and can then cause lung cancer. We get that part.

You may picture white powdery cloth like insulation on heating pipes as asbestos. Another source you may think of is old floor tile. You may not know:

·         In the name of public safety, there were laws mandating the use of asbestos as a fire retardant

·         Asbestos fibers were mixed into plaster

·         Suspended ceiling tiles has asbestos fibers added to meet fire retardant requirements  

·         Asbestos was added to paints

·         Panels of asbestos were used as fire breaks above boilers

·         Asbestos insulation was used in building attics and poured into block walls

·         Asbestos was used in roof shingles

·         Asbestos was used in drywall compound

·         Asbestos tape was used to seal ductwork and at openings in fire walls    

·         Some of the floor tiles manufactured today have asbestos in certain colors

·         Asbestos was used in stoves, furnaces, hot water tanks and as wire insulation  


The point is that each of the environmental risks in a school or other building for that matter may not fall into the list of commonly recognized potentially harmful risks.

We just looked at two areas of environmental hazard. Mold, odor and indoor air quality are every bit as important to our nation’s children. MUCH LESS IS KNOWN BY THE PUBLIC AND WORKMEN ABOUT THESE ISSUES. 


Remember the workman running through the back door into the building? Professional assessment of the environment can save the health of our kids and avoid costly cleanups.

Give us a call.  Understanding the indoor air environment and keeping people and buildings healthy is what we do.         

Posted by Dan Howard on May 17th, 2017 10:06 PM



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