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VALLEY ROUNDUP | North Hills

Possible Asbestos Found at School

May 20, 2000|SUE FOX

Responding to possible asbestos contamination at Gledhill Street Elementary School, Los Angeles Unified School District officials briefly closed four rooms Friday.

Environmental inspectors found construction debris which will be tested for asbestos, said Angelo Bellomo, the district's interim director for environmental health and safety.

"It's unlikely that there was a serious exposure," Bellomo said. "In this particular case, if it was asbestos it was a fairly minor release."

Although the presence of asbestos fibers was not confirmed, officials closed two classrooms, a teacher's lounge, and a computer room at the school, located at 16030 Gledhill St. The rooms were cleaned and reopened within hours, Bellomo said.

"It was cleaned up and handled as if it was an asbestos release," Bellomo said. "We're just being super cautious."

Once used as a fire retardant, asbestos is often found in ceilings and floor tiles of buildings built before 1973. The carcinogenic fibers are generally considered safe unless released into the air by construction, earthquakes or other movement. Airborne fibers can lodge in the lungs, increasing the risk of cancer.

Asbestos contamination has become a persistent problem for Los Angeles schools, especially as many undergo renovation work that disturbs trapped asbestos fibers. At Gledhill, workers had drilled holes into walls and ceiling tiles to install wires, Bellomo said. Chatsworth High School, Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights and Palisades Charter High School in Pacific Palisades are among the schools that officials have temporarily closed to clean up asbestos contamination. In March, the school district's environmental chief abruptly resigned amid criticism that he had not adequately addressed asbestos hazards discovered at several schools last fall.

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