COOS BAY – Asbestos exposure has potentially exposed up to six staff members at the Coos Bay School District.

On Wednesday, the district released a statement outlining events surrounding the accident leading to asbestos exposure in one of the classrooms inside the Harding Building.

“We learned recently that a maintenance action may have created exposure to asbestos in a classroom at Harding School, and want to keep our parents, staff and students informed of the steps we are taking to ensure the safety of all,” the release stated. “First and foremost is our commitment to the well-being of our students and staff, and ... we have taken appropriate measures to make the classroom safe for occupancy when classes begin Sept. 6.”

One maintenance employee was in the process of sanding the wax layer coating the building's original asbestos tiles on Aug. 16. The sanding went too deep, knocking asbestos into the air.

The district was notified of the accident on Aug. 17. Between the time of the accident and the district being notified of the exposure, five other employees went into the room for various reasons, totaling six people possibly breathing in asbestos before the room was sealed.

“Such materials are generally considered safe provided they are not disturbed by sanding or grinding,” the release said about asbestos. “Asbestos fibers suspended in the air have been linked to cancer exposures.”

According to the press release, on August 17 Arcadia Environmental began efforts to fully clean and prep the room, including sealing of the floor tiles.

“Arcadia Environmental specializes in asbestos clean-up,” the release said. “The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was notified and they gave oversight to the clean-up work.”

On Aug. 29, Arcadia Environmental issued a statement that lab tests had shown that the room was safe from contaminants and ready for human occupancy.

“It's hard to tell how much asbestos was exposed,” said the district's superintendent, Bryan Trendell. “We haven't received the full air quality report from Arcadia, but those floor tiles have a low percentage of asbestos in the tiles themselves.”

There was no exposure to the rest of the Harding Building since the classroom had its own ventilation system.

As for the six staff members potentially exposed to the asbestos, the district is seeking medical options that would be best for them.

“We're working with them on what the next steps would be and what we can do for them,” Trendell said. “Obviously if exposed to asbestos, things don't show up for many years down the road so we have to figure out the best course of action for the folks exposed and help them move forward.”

If you have questions or concerns, contact the district office at 541-267-1309.

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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