NATIONAL

Asbestos still present at 85% of Seoul schools

By 이종민
  • Published : May 17, 2011 - 18:40
  • Updated : May 17, 2011 - 18:40

Over 85 percent of below-college-level academic facilities suspected of asbestos pollution contain the potentially dangerous mineral fiber, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said Tuesday.

According to data released by the office, of the 54,279 facilities in 1,669 kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools inspected between 2009 and 2010, roughly 87 percent contained the fiber which can cause lung cancer.

When compared to the total surface area of schools in Seoul, the area contaminated with the potentially harmful substance comes in at 24.7 percent.

In the inspection by the SOME, high schools were found to have the highest amount of the substance, with more than 90 percent of facilities built with the fiber mostly used for insulation.

The number was followed by elementary schools at roughly 86 percent, and middle schools at some 84 percent.

According to the results, most of the asbestos was found in materials used to construct ceilings, but there were also cases of microscopic asbestos fibers being discovered in open areas.

Of the sites inspected, five locations were found to have asbestos particles in the air, causing a life-threatening situation for students.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that has been widely used in construction material for insulation.

If left untouched then the fiber can be harmless, but once disturbed by construction, the fiber becomes airborne and can cause serious damage when inhaled into the lungs.

“As much as the asbestos within the school can be harmful to the health of students, there needs to be safety classes and increased inspection to find solutions to the ultimate problem,” said an official of the Seoul education office.

The SMOE conducted the inspection as part of a plan by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, announced in 2008.

By Robert Lee (robert@heraldcorp.com)