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School System Closes Down for Asbestos Cleanup

March 31, 1994

WARWICK, R.I. (AP) _ Classes were canceled indefinitely for 12,200 students in Warwick’s 27 public schools because of high levels of asbestos.

School Superintendent Henry Tarlian ordered the shutdown Wednesday after asbestos levels in five elementary schools were found to be above the Environmental Protection Agency limit. Test results from the rest of the schools were expected by Monday.

Asbestos can cause lung cancer and other repiratory illnesses. Asbestos cleanups in other districts have closed schools for months and cost millions.

″We realize we have a massive problem before us,″ Tarlian said.

Tarlian said he was not aware of any health problems linked to the asbestos. The air is not routinely tested, so no one knows how long the asbestos levels have been unsafe, he said.

Results from the five schools showed asbestos above the EPA limit but below th standard set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Mayor Lincoln Chafee said.

″We’re going to strive immediately to get below the EPA level,″ Chafee said.

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