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Asbestos discovery closes Sacramento elementary school


More than 300 students and staff at a Sacramento elementary school will relocate to another campus next week after workers installing wireless technology found attic insulation that contains asbestos.

 

Sacramento officials ordered Fruit Ridge Elementary School closed for the remainder of the school year while safety crews clean the building and remove the insulation. Meanwhile, an independent laboratory will test air samples collected from several classrooms to determine if asbestos fibers were released during the wireless installation.

 

Fruit Ridge, built in 1937, has a type of attic insulation called vermiculite, a naturally occurring mineral composed of shiny flakes that expand when heated. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, most of the vermiculite sold in the United States from 1919 to 1990 was mined near Libby, Montana, and is likely contaminated by asbestos, which can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses.

 

Asbestos was widely used in building materials until the 1970s, when the EPA began regulating its use. If the building materials are damaged, disturbed or deteriorate, asbestos fibers can be released into the air, creating a hazard.

 

A federal law, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, or AHERA, requires public school districts and non-profit private schools to inspect for asbestos-containing building material and prepare management plans to reduce any potential hazards. The law requires testing for air quality and either encapsulating or removing the toxic materials by licensed abatement specialists.

 

Jonathan Raymond, superintendent of Sacramento Unified School District, said he ordered the removal of the insulation to ensure the long-term safety of students and staff.

 

”We are being extremely cautious in this situation,” Raymond said. “The safety of students and our staff is our top concern.”