Asbestos Exposure in Schools
Because asbestos was used to make thousands of different construction materials and consumer products between the 1930s and 1970s, almost every school constructed before 1980 contains asbestos. For example, schools may be insulated with asbestos insulation and older school equipment may contain asbestos. Additionally, school buildings may contain asbestos containing construction materials, such as:
- floor and ceiling tiles
- acoustical plaster
- pipe insulation
- fireproofing materials
- boiler wrap
Asbestos is only dangerous if its fibers are released into the air and inhaled. Typically, asbestos found in school equipment, insulation, and construction materials is non-friable, meaning it will not become airborne and dangerous unless cut, or broken. Therefore, the EPA advises schools to leave most asbestos containing materials undisturbed.
On the other hand, friable asbestos, or asbestos that is dry and can be easily crumbled, poses a significant risk to school children. Friable asbestos is extremely dangerous because, when it crumbles, it can release toxic asbestos fibers into the air. When these fibers are inhaled, they remain lodged in the body and can cause fatal diseases, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and various cancers.
Preventing Asbestos Exposure in Schools
In 1986, Congress passed the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) to help prevent asbestos exposure in schools. The Act mandates that schools comply with the following requirements:
Testing Requirement: Unless a building architect certifies in writing that no asbestos containing materials were used during construction, schools must test for asbestos every three years. Schools must also perform tests on all known asbestos-containing materials every six months. Additionally, schools must prepare plans setting forth how they intend to reduce asbestos exposure hazards.
Notification Requirement: Schools must appoint a contact person to make required notifications and to answer questions. Each school’s contact person must inform parents, teachers, and employer organizations about the following:
- asbestos removal at the school
- plans to reduce asbestos exposure hazards at the school
- annual status report on the school’s plan to manage asbestos exposure
Asbestos Exposure in School
If you or your child were exposed to asbestos at a school, you should immediately contact a health professional. If you or a loved one has been injured by asbestos exposure, please contact us today as you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.