If the turnout looks a little lighter than normal Sunday for commencement ceremonies at Fostoria High School in Ohio, that will be understandable.
It’s not exactly a welcome mat.
Asbestos is the naturally occurring mineral that can cause a variety of serious health issues, including asbestosis and mesothelioma. Health officials throughout the world agree there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos, which once was praised for its heat resistance, versatility and cost effectiveness, was widely used through much of the 20th century in the construction industry, including in schools and gymnasiums across American that were built before 1980.
And while many in Fostoria are excited about the upcoming renovations and upgrades planned at the junior/senior high school, the recently-posted warning signs now could cause some concern on graduation day.
The warnings were posted because asbestos was used in the adhesive beneath the gymnasium floor, which will be replaced this summer. School officials have assured the students and parents that there is no health risk, but no one really can say for sure.
“It (asbestos) is encased in a semi-solid glue, so it’s not like it’s going airborn or anything,” Fostoria High Athletic Director Aaron Weidner told the Review Times Newspaper. Many gymnasium floors installed in the late ’60s and early ’70s used the same asbestos glue.
Asbestos usually isn’t dangerous until it becomes airborne and the fibers are inhaled or ingested inadvertently. When a few fibers get lodged in the lining around the lung or heart, they can sit there for many years before they cause scaring eventually lead to serious problems.
The new gymnasium floor will be safer, more athlete friendly and a better place to train, according to Weidner. It also will be patterned after the floor in Boston where the Celtics play. The price tag is expected to be $121,500.
The school also is adding new fitness equipment and resurfacing the tennis court. At graduation, though, it’s going to be hard to ignore the warning signs at you walk in the door.