Preschoolers Face-to-Face with Asbestos

My four-year-old son Jack likes to play on the floor. On one recent visit to his pre-school class, I played the tyrannosaurus rex and got “slayed” -- pinned to the floor -- by Jack and his pals James, George, Raymond, the other James, Peter, Julia and Amelia.  

I thought about that day when I read that Trinity Episcopal Church‘s School of Early Learning, just a few miles away in Arlington, had been shuttered indefinitely because dust from the floor tiles had tested positive for asbestos.

The online news site,, reported that “volunteers were cleaning the preschool when they ripped up flooring, releasing asbestos dust into the air.”

Asbestos is a known human carcinogen. There is no safe level of exposure to it. Inhaling even a minuscule amount can mean a long and likely fatal battle with asbestos-related disease.

Most Americans probably think exposure to asbestos happens on the job – in  construction, cutting up asbestos-laden composites, or auto repair, where mechanics handle asbestos brake pads.  

However, it’s clear that young children are being exposed to the deadly fibers. Michael Bradley, who recently passed away at the age of 29 from mesothelioma, likely inhaled asbestos as a young boy. 

Efforts are now under way to help concerned Americans find out more about asbestos around them. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill, has introduced legislation that would set up an online, searchable national database of information about products that contain asbestos and where those items are likely to be found. 

Asbestos was a common ingredient used in the manufacture of many products for decades. It has not been produced in the U.S. for more than 10 years, but it is still imported into this country, and, as both the death of Michael and the contamination of the preschool show, asbestos remains a serious danger to the health of all Americans.

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