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Students in danger - Deadly asbestos found on Marlie Mount Primary School compound
published: Tuesday | February 27, 2007

Students of the Marlie Mount Primary School in St. Catherine play a game of marbles close to asbestos pipes, yesterday. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Rasbert Turner, Gleaner Writer

Spanish Town, St. Catherine:

MORE THAN 1,500 students of the Marlie Mount Primary School in St. Catherine have been exposed to cancer-causing asbestos that is scattered across the institution's compound.

A Gleaner news team visited the institution yesterday and saw several flowerpots, posts and other containers with the material all over the school compound. The pots were neatly placed and painted in various colours. Several children, oblivious to the danger they were in, played close to the deadly material.

Principal Pamella Mapp said that when she returned from the United States and saw the material, she became concerned and that was why they were removed from one section of the school to another.

She said that while there is a concentrated drive against asbestos in other countries such as the United States, very little attention is paid to it in Jamaica.

"I think there needs to be a wider public education campaign to bring to the people the dangers of asbestos, as, if this is not done, persons will not know what is happening around them," she said.

She promised, however, to confer with the Ministry of Education to see how best the problem can be resolved.

In the meantime, the $6.5 million asbestos removal exercise at Ascott Drive, Burke Road area of Old Harbour, was in high gear yesterday and several containers were removed. The containers were destined for the Riverton City dump.

Residents expressed concern, however, that the work of the Chemistry Department at the University of the West Indies will be compromised if thousands of pieces of pipes and other materials are not removed from the nearby asbestos factory, which ceased operations several decades ago.

Facts about asbestos

Asbestos is the name given to a group of six different fibrous minerals that occur naturally in the environment.

Asbestos is used for a wide range of manufactured goods, mostly in building materials (roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products, and asbestos cement products).

Breathing asbestos can increase the risk of cancer in people. There are two types of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos: lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the thin lining surrounding the lung or abdominal cavity.

Cancer from asbestos does not develop immediately, but shows up after a number of years.

Studies of workers also suggest that breathing asbestos can increase chances of getting cancer in other parts of the body (stomach, intestines, esophagus, pancreas, and kidneys), but this is less certain.

Early identification and treatment of any cancer can increase an individual's quality of life and survival.

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