By Ryan McGreal
Published December 20, 2012
On December 18, Gary Santucci asked the City of Hamilton's Medical Officer of Health to investigate Sanford School. The school housed students as recently as 2010, but prospective buyers were recently told that they could not enter the building due to airborne contaminants.
Santucci expressed concern about the safety of the school for students in 2010 if it is now too dangerous to enter.
Matt Lawson, manager of the City's Health Hazards Program, investigated the issue and submitted the following response:
Dear Mr. Santucci,
I would like to provide you with information related to your email to Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, where you raised concerns regarding the safety of Sanford Avenue School during the 2009/2010 school year.
As you are likely aware, the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) is planning to demolish the school in the near future. An environmental engineering firm was contracted by the board to provide a site assessment of the building prior to demolition. The practice of a pre-demolition site assessment is supported by Public Health Services, as it can help identify any potential risks to public health and safety resulting from the demolition process.
The results of the site assessment performed on Nov.1, 2012, concluded that moisture intrusion resulting in mould, flecking paint (lead-based), and asbestos-containing materials (ACM) were observed in the building. Due to these factors being present, the engineering consultant recommended that individuals entering the facility should wear personal protective equipment that would lower the risk of any exposure to the conditions within the building.
Regarding your concern that children may have been exposed to the same conditions being observed currently, I can safely say that there is no reason to believe there was any health risks to the children related to exposure of the indoor environment of the school in 2009/2010.
The reason is that the conditions that exist today at the school are a result of more than two years of neglected maintenance and certain structural components have deteriorated. The building has not been maintained and kept in proper condition for use as a school since 2010, and the resulting mould, and flaking paint are part of the result.
Regarding the asbestos within the school, this is a common feature of buildings as old as the Sanford Avenue School building. So long as the ACM were maintained intact when the school was operational, there should be no risk of exposure. I have no reason to believe that the ACM within the school were in a state of disrepair when the school was operational.
I trust you will find this information should address your concerns regarding any potential health risks existing at the school during the 2009/2010 academic year.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions or concerns.
Manager, Environmental Health
Hamilton Public Health Services
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