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Excessive asbestos found in 8 school playgrounds

Asbestos has been found in the playgrounds of eight schools and its level is confirmed to have exceeded the permissible 0.1 percent, the Education Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry’s investigation and result-came after an environmental group claimed they had found high levels of the cancer-causing agent in playgrounds of the eight schools.

The schools are Yangmyung Elementary School in Seoul, Morundae Elementary School in Busan, Gwancheon High School in Gyeonggi Province, Seolhwa, Eumbong and Ssangyong Middle School in South Chungcheong Province, and South Gyeongsang-based Milju Elementary and Hadong Middle School.

“Investigation has been conducted by two public science agencies. The result showed the playgrounds contain asbestos in higher amount than the standard of 0.1 percent,” said an official in a joint meeting attended by related officials from the Education Ministry, Culture Ministry and suppliers of school playground soil.

The test confirmed that soil in the eight school playgrounds contains the minerals olivine and serpentine, from former asbestos mines.

The playgrounds are covered temporarily with tents to prevent asbestos fibers from mixing with the air.

At the meeting, government officials and soil suppliers discussed ways to dump the tainted soil and clean up. But they couldn’t reach an agreement as soil suppliers opposed shouldering the cost.

“The soil tainted with asbestos would have spread to other places at schools, including classrooms. The investigation should expand to other places at school. Also the authorities should strengthen monitoring process in the future,” said Choi Ye-yong of the Asian Citizen’s Center for Environment and Health, one of the civic groups which raised concerns.

By Lee Woo-young (