A small religious school in Ohio used several dozen middle and high school aged students and other volunteers to gut a former YMCA building. Unfortunately, the building contained asbestos-filled materials and the kids were exposed to dangerous conditions without any protective gear. The school is currently under criminal investigation for its part in the debacle.
The school purchased the building with the intention of moving into the larger space with a gymnasium. It then turned to its students to help with the project on a volunteer basis. Volunteers removed the ceiling and interior walls, stripping the building down to its pipes. Those same pipes, as well as floor tiles and duct fabric, were found to contain asbestos. The Ohio EPA received a complaint in December and launched an investigation. It found three dumpsters full of material that likely contains asbestos as well as other contaminated material throughout the work site.
Some of the work done by the students was filmed by a person who lives next to the building. The man removes asbestos for a living and is aware of the danger that those students were exposed to. In Ohio, as in most states, building owners are required to hire trained and certified contractors when removing asbestos-containing materials. Such work sites must be sealed and workers must be protected from inhaling the dangerous materials.
It may take many years to fully understand the damage done to these students. Asbestos has been linked to specific forms of cancer that can show up decades after exposure. It is impossible to determine how much asbestos was inhaled by the students before the problem was identified and the work stopped.
Source: WKYC-TV, “Investigator: Students gut asbestos-filled building,” by Tom Meyer, 8 January 2013