Attending college should not put your life at risk. Yet that is exactly what thousands of students, teachers and faculty members in the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) are facing due to asbestos exposure on campus. Asbestos is a dangerous cancer-causing mineral found in many construction materials that were used for building schools, colleges and universities in the country.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another disease related to asbestos exposure and were a student or staff member in the LACCD, contact Bailey & Glasser, LLP for a free consultation about a potential lawsuit. You may be entitled to financial compensation.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos refers to a group of six silicate minerals that are naturally found in rock and soil. There are two main kinds of asbestos: chrysotile and amphibole. Chrysotile is the most dangerous type, as well as the one that was used most for manufacturing purposes. Chrysotile asbestos is long, curly and can be woven. Amphibole asbestos, on the other hand, is thin, needle-like and more difficult to work with.
Understanding the Risks of Asbestos
Asbestos can cause cancer and a wide range of other negative health effects. In 1987, after years of research and studies suggesting that asbestos can cause cancer, it was confirmed in a publication released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The IARC publicly confirmed that all six types of asbestos were carcinogenic or cancer-causing. At this time, the federal government banned the use of asbestos in manufacturing.
In the late 1800s and most of the 1900s, however, asbestos was a popular ingredient in building materials, products and consumer goods. It was used heavily for manufacturing purposes due to its low cost and ability to resist heat and corrosion. Unfortunately, this puts millions of people at risk of potential asbestos exposure today. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and a variety of other illnesses.
If asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, this can send microscopic asbestos dust into the air. Anyone working, living or learning in an area where asbestos dust has been released is at risk of inhaling or ingesting this mineral. Asbestos particles cause illnesses and diseases by getting lodged inside of the body – typically in the mesothelium, or the protective lining that surrounds many organs. Over time, these fibers and particles can cause enough irritation to create scar tissue and cancer cells may develop.
What Asbestos-Contaminated Products Are Often Found in Schools and Colleges?
Any building that was constructed prior to the 1990s could potentially have asbestos-containing materials on the premises. This includes thousands of schools, colleges and universities. A 1984 study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that an estimated 35,000 schools are likely to contain asbestos. Surprisingly, this study was the last time the government took a survey of how many schools are contaminated by asbestos.
Building materials that often contain asbestos include:
- Ceiling tiles
- Floor tiles
- Spray-on texture
- “Popcorn” ceilings
- Fire doors
- HVAC ducts
- Joint compounds
- Roofing shingles
No amount of exposure to asbestos is safe, according to the National Cancer Institute. However, research shows that the longer someone is exposed to asbestos, the higher the likelihood that that person will develop an illness. Students and teachers who are in a contaminated school building every day for many years, for example, are at a higher risk.
Is Asbestos Present in the LA Community College District?
Although the LA Community College District currently does not have any information about asbestos on its website or a list of buildings that contain asbestos made available to the public, their buildings have been known to contain asbestos. An LA Times article from 1986, for example, tells the story of asbestos pipe insulation falling down in a chemistry lab at LA City College – three years after a consultant had identified the insulation as an asbestos safety risk.
The LACCD consists of multiple locations and 202 separate buildings:
- East Los Angeles College – 34 buildings
- Los Angeles City College – 23 buildings
- Los Angeles Harbor College – 18 buildings
- Los Angeles Mission College – 12 buildings
- Los Angeles Pierce College – 36 buildings
- Los Angeles Trade-Technical College – 15 buildings
- Los Angeles Valley College – 27 buildings
- Los Angeles Southwest College – 23 buildings
- West Los Angeles College – 14 buildings
Any college building constructed prior to 1990 could potentially contain asbestos. This includes classrooms, offices, gyms, laboratories and stadiums. Places where asbestos is often found on college campuses are the ceilings, roofs, attics and boiler rooms. If you attended or worked at a college within the LACCD and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness, your exposure may trace back to your time on campus.
What Are LA Community Colleges Doing to Protect Their Students and Staff?
The LA Community College District has some protocols in place to protect students and faculty from risks posed by asbestos on campus. Administrative regulations established in 1983, for example, aim to teach district employees about the problems associated with asbestos and how to stay safe from this environmental hazard while working. It also lists tools and methods that should be used for asbestos removal.
LACCD’s current facility design standards also attempt to prevent asbestos exposure. They state that any products purchased for use on campus, including for building renovations, must be asbestos-free. This is more stringent than the federal government’s current asbestos ban, which only applies to products that contain more than 1 percent asbestos. However, it is too late for the LACCD to protect millions of previous and current students and staff members.
What Are Your Legal Rights if You Were Exposed to Asbestos in the LA Community College District?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an illness connected to asbestos and spent time on a campus within the Los Angeles Community College District, you may be entitled to financial compensation. If you or your attorney can prove that the LACCD was negligent in protecting you from exposure to asbestos as a student or faculty member, the district or government may be held financially responsible for your medical bills and other costs.
For more information about a college asbestos claim in Los Angeles or throughout California, contact Bailey & Glasser, LLP to request a free consultation. Our attorneys can answer your questions and connect you to vital mesothelioma resources during this difficult time.