An anonymous letter sent to the Mission school district and to the local newspaper suggests that Mission Secondary School has an asbestos exposure risk, a statement that superintendent Angus Wilson says is not entirely accurate.
But he does not deny the fact that the school, which was constructed in the 1950s, does contain asbestos materials.
“Like most people’s homes, many of our schools have asbestos in them,” said Wilson.
He said that each school in the district, including Mission Secondary, has had a report conducted to indicate where there is asbestos material.
Wilson said any building that was constructed before 1980 likely contains asbestos material and the school district has “100-year-old buildings in some cases, and they have asbestos in them.”
“You know, the thing with asbestos is it is absolutely fine until it gets disturbed. It’s in the walls of your home or whatever and it’s fine.”
The letter, which is signed “a number of concerned parents,” states, “There are asbestos-containing materials causing an exposure risk to our children. This concern has been verified by numerous teachers during investigation and consultation.”
It goes on to demand that action be taken to “protect our children.”
Wilson does not know what “investigation and consultation” is being referred to in the anonymous letter. He forwarded the “mystery letter” to Jim Pearce, principal of Mission Secondary, but no one has made an official complaint to either of them.
Wilson said the staff at the high school have had a protocol meeting regarding the asbestos report, but aside from some clarification questions, no concerns were reported.
“No one has contacted me about ‘Oh, we have had an incident where we have punctured a hole in the wall’ or anything like that.”
The company, Sure Hazmat and Testing, based out of Burnaby, performed the Due Diligence Hazardous Materials Report and Inventory for the school district.
The report indicated that asbestos materials at Mission Secondary have a low potential for disturbance, except for one area – a hallway outside room 145.
“It’s a pipe insulation material that has a higher possibility of being disturbed,” said Wilson.
He said plans and procedures are in place if material gets disturbed.
Wilson said he wishes the people who wrote the letter would come forward so he could address whatever issues they are referring to.
“I have no information to lead me to believe that there has been any incident with asbestos,” he said.
At this time, the asbestos report is only available internally to Mission school district staff and not to the general public.
Wilson said they are now working on changing the computer system to allow public access.
“They should really be public so, first of all, anyone who wants them, I’ll give them to them but we are trying to change the system.”
He said it should become available online in the near future.
Asbestos exposure can lead to chronic health problems such as lung cancer and scarring or thickening of the lungs, according to the WorkSafeBC website.