Asbestos Found at HMS Was Never Airborne: Schuster

District 181's superintendent said in a letter to the community that traces of asbestos were discovered in a music room, but were never exposed to students and staff.

The following is a letter from District 181 superintendent Renée Schuster updating the community on progress at Hinsdale Middle School and the discovery of small traces of non-airborne asbestos in a music classroom.

Dear District 181 Community,

This message is to update families on the progress at Hinsdale Middle School and notify HMS families and staff of new information related to the facility.

Progress at the building is continuing well, with ductwork cleaning slated to begin tomorrow. Special equipment is being brought in to heat the building while the HVAC is turned off for the cleaning. The HMS Open House is still tentatively planned for Sunday, February 2 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. We will confirm the date and time no later than Friday and notify families and staff via email and a notice on the Facility Updates webpage.

Also, we want to ensure families and staff are notified of new information we have learned regarding the HMS facility.

In the efforts to immediately address water damage at HMS, the first remediation company hired by the District worked throughout the affected areas of the building to soak up water and remove items that had been water damaged. The first floor music room (Room 124) was among the more affected classrooms due to water coming in from the ceiling, as a pipe had burst in the science classroom directly above.

The risers in the music room were constructed with wood framing and plywood platforms covered by vinyl tiles. The risers were water damaged and therefore disassembled and removed from the room in sections by the remediation company on January 7 with the floor tile in tact. During this disassembly and removal, a small number of the tiles were broken. A concern was reported to the administration on January 21 that the tiles may have contained asbestos. It was confirmed to exist in very low percentages by reviewing the District’s asbestos management plan and by additional material sample testing.

Asbestos was once a commonly used building material; it was later found to cause serious health effects. Asbestos is harmful only if the fibers contained in the materials become airborne and typically after extended exposure or very high levels of exposure. Fortunately, the manner in which the restoration company cleaned the music room because of water damage was very consistent with the work of an asbestos abatement contractor. Water damaged materials were removed from the room and the building, then the company conducted cleaning, wet-wiping, and HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) Filter vacuuming before students and staff returned on January 8.

Following the report of possible asbestos to administration on January 21, and upon consultation with the Illinois Department of Public Health, Integrity Environmental Services conducted aggressive air sampling in Room 124, Room 126 and adjacent areas to determine if there were any asbestos fibers in the air. Testing has confirmed zero (0) traces of asbestos fibers were found in the 13 TEM (Transmission Electron Microscopy) air samples. It is believed any possible asbestos fiber release had been contained due to the wetness from the water damage, the small amount of asbestos in the materials (1%-2%), and the fact that the fibers are embedded in the material matrix, preventing them from being disturbed, even when a tile is cracked. It is extremely unlikely that any students or staff would have been exposed to airborne asbestos, and the testing by Integrity Environmental Services shows no reason to be concerned about asbestos exposure.

As part of the District’s asbestos management plan, asbestos checks are completed every three years in a comprehensive manner, and a basic checklist is to be completed every six months. The checks are completed by a third party service, and reports are kept on file with the Illinois Department of Public Health. The District completed the three-year review for Hinsdale Middle School in November 2012 and was fully compliant. The six-month checklist was not completed in May 2013; it has been scheduled for January 28. We are concerned about the missed asbestos check and the failure to report any related concerns in a timely manner. This is being addressed with District staff.

The music room has been cleaned twice already by SERVPRO in addition to the initial contractor’s cleaning, and it will be cleaned again before the school is reopened. The risers will be replaced later this school year.

The report from Integrity Environmental Services is available to download on the HMS Facility Updates webpage. Also, a representative from Integrity is providing a report to the Board at the meeting this evening.

If you have any questions, I welcome your call or email.


Dr. Renée Schuster


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