Asbestos in Our Schools: Still a Major Threat
Labor Day for some marks the official end of summer and the official start to the school year. Many schools that were built before 1980 contain asbestos because of the many qualities to the substance; cheap, easy to install, acted as an insulator and a fire retardant. Back then, the dangers of asbestos were not made public and as a result, many children were at risk of being exposed.
Even today, decades after production of asbestos became illegal and importation regulated, we are still finding new areas, especially school buildings that contain asbestos. One of the most recent findings was North Myrtle Beach High School, where asbestos was found mixed with other materials that were used for construction when the building was erected in the 1970s. School officials claim that the asbestos abatement won’t pose any threat to students because the work will be done at night and the asbestos is non-friable. Non-friable asbestos means that the fibers are not airborne, therefore not posing an immediate threat. While school officials insist that North Myrtle Beach High School is acting in full accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards for asbestos removal, there are still many areas and school districts throughout the modern United States that have not complied.
A study by two U.S. Senators in 2015 was conducted to see just how safe our schools are in terms of asbestos exposure. Their publication “Falling from Grade: Asbestos in America’s Schools” noted that not only do many schools contain asbestos, but even more disturbingly, many school districts are not practicing safe asbestos abatement protocols, such as monitoring. Their key findings show:
- It is difficult to correctly estimate the number of schools that contain asbestos and asbestos products as not every state responded to the survey. Other states have not undergone any sort of asbestos abatement.
- The states do no not seem to be addressing, monitoring, or investigating the threat of asbestos. Only 20 states responded to the survey and even then, little information was provided.
- States have not been reporting if regular inspections have been done.
- States are not reporting their records which are designed to keep track of asbestos monitoring
What can parents do?
Parents have more rights than they might think due in part to regulations enacted through the EPA. The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) is a law by the EPA that requires any type of school or educational platform to conduct inspections for any asbestos-containing material. If asbestos is found, then the law requires officials to produce an asbestos management plan, and reduce asbestos levels in the buildings. Asbestos abatement can become expensive because of the millions of children that could be affected in the thousands of buildings. It became apparent that without any sort of assistance, school districts and educational facilities would suffer as they would not be able to financially support the response actions to asbestos. The Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Reauthorization Act (ASHARA ) was implemented in 1990 as a provision to the AHERA that requires the EPA to assist, direct, and enable institutions to be able to follow the correct protocol.
Parents have the right to come forward and question the school district about their asbestos abatement. Parents can request copies of inspection records and management plans – two documents that school districts are required to have under AHERA. While the dangers of asbestos do not appear to be immediate, the long term health effects such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis are often painful and fatal. Asbestos-related illnesses are entirely preventable and it is because of the negligence of officials, management, and companies that this carcinogen has been allowed to exist in our world today. The attorneys at Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C. (GPW) want to fight these companies who were careless; whether it is a school district not complying with recent laws, or an industrial company that knowingly withheld information regarding the link between asbestos and cancer, our expertise in asbestos lawsuits makes us a leader in our industry and we will help you to fight for the compensation you deserve.
Linda Reinstein, “Mismanaged Asbestos In US Schools Threatens Millions Of Children And Teachers,” The Huffington Post (August 29, 2016). [Link]
Christian Boschult, “Asbestos discovered in Grand Strand school,” Myrtle Beach Online (August 30, 2016). [Link]
Senator Edward J. Barkley & Senator Barbara Boxer, “Failing the Grade, Asbestos in America’s Schools,” United States Senate (December 2015). [Link]