Several families with students who attend Huntington Beach, California schools that were shut down due to asbestos issues, filed a claim against the school district last month. A total of three elementary schools in the Ocean View School District were closed last year after asbestos dangers surfaces.
According to court documents, a lawsuit filed on Dec. 19 states that the Ocean View School District, its contractors, officials, and elected leaders did not protect students from “hazardous and unsafe” conditions at three of their elementary schools, including Hope View, Lake View and Oak View. The claim states that the children were put into danger from July through Oct. of last year.
In Oct. 2014, the schools were shut down indefinitely after a modernization project revealed asbestos on the campuses. The project, which started in July 2014, resulted in over 1,600 children being bused to different school districts. Per the claim, the students were exposed to asbestos prior to being bused, and ingested “dangerous quantities of toxic asbestos fibers.” Although its unclear how many children were named in the claim, it does state that they were emotionally affected and scared because of the asbestos exposure.
Two Rooms in One School Littered with Asbestos
According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, independent testing for asbestos in Oct. 2104 at Lake View Elementary indicated negative results. However, prior testing at the same school shows that at least two classrooms at Lake View had so much asbestos that it was higher than the acceptable levels as set forth by the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA).
The other schools indicate a smaller amount of asbestos. Yet, although AHERA allows “acceptable” levels of asbestos in public schools, the American Cancer Society (ACS) suggests that there are no safe levels of asbestos exposure, regardless of how small.
Asbestos in Many Schools Across the Nation
Prior the late 1970s regulations on asbestos, set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), numerous schools across the nations were constructed with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Asbestos is known for it resistance to heat and fire, and it’s easy to combine it into other materials. Consequently, not only were schools once built with ACMs, but also homes, buildings, appliances, and more.
All three schools named in the claim were constructed decades ago when asbestos was commonly used. Over time as the school buildings aged, asbestos dust fell from the ceilings’ beams, settling onto the ceiling tiles in classrooms. If children ingested the fine, odorless asbestos fibers, there is chance they are risk for life-threatening illnesses such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and asbestos-related lung cancer.
Children and Asbestos
Research suggests that children may be more vulnerable to asbestos. Although studies have been conflicting, children may be more prone to inhaling asbestos given their age and the differences in breathing. Children have smaller lungs than adults and tend to breathe faster.
“From the available, albeit limited, data it is not possible to say whether children are intrinsically more susceptible to asbestos-related injury. However, it is well recognised by this committee that, due to the increased life expectancy of children compared to adults, there is an increased lifetime risk of mesothelioma as a result of the long latency period of the disease,” said the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers. “Because of differences in life expectancy, for a given dose of asbestos the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is predicted to be about 3.5 times greater for a child first exposed at age 5 compared to an adult first exposed at age 25 and about 5 times greater when compared to an adult first exposed at age 30.”
In addition, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), several studies indicate that age plays a large in the risk of developing mesothelioma. One study indicated that while children are more susceptible to developing the illness, another study indicated that adults may be more vulnerable. More research is needed to determine more accurate results.
If you or a loved one have been injured by asbestos, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. We invite you to contact our leading mesothelioma lawyers for a free, no-obligation case consultation.