A comprehensive study regarding asbestos and schools has found that around one-third of the schools in the United States contain asbestos.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the study came from the staff of Senator Edward J Markey of Massachusetts. Marquis, of the Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight, an investigation into the schools across the nation to ascertain which buildings contain the harmful materials and what actions need to be taken to ensure children are safe.
Although federal law requires all schools to comply with the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), there have been instances in which children have been allegedly put into danger, and reportedly at the hands of those in charge of maintaining a safe and hazardous-free school environment.
For example, according to Manhattan Beach superintendent Michael Matthews, the carpet was supposed to be installed on the tile in a school that has asbestos.
The carpet was to be used as a preventative measure so that potential asbestos exposure to be avoided.
Yet, the contractors at the school ended up disrupting asbestos in the process, according to the Daily Breeze, resulting in 27 violations.
Several of the school’s rooms were shut down after asbestos fibers were released. Asbestos fibers are odorless, microscopic, and impossible to detect with the human eye. Airborne asbestos fibers can be easily ingested/inhaled, then lodged within the body.
Over time, the fibers attach to the linings of major organs, which can lead to toxic illnesses.
“Since then, the district has worked closely with regulatory agencies and will continue to do so cooperatively until all concerns have been resolved,” Matthews later wrote in a statement. “To that end, we have brought on qualified environmental experts to assist with assessing the area and remediation efforts.”
Further, three schools in the Ocean View School District in California have been closed down because of asbestos concerns and issues. Over 1,000 students were transferred out of their schools, which ended up costing the district around $18 million.
Were the children harmed before they were uprooted from their school? In many instances, it’s impossible to tell if people have been affected by asbestos immediately. Typically, diseases that are a result of asbestos exposure can take anywhere from 30 to 50 years to surface.
Some of the key findings in the study include:
- States may not be monitoring and addressing asbestos issues and concerns in schools as outlined in the AHERA.
- There have been very few instances in which school districts are being held accountable for violating AHERA.
- States are not reporting the record-keeping activity required, which shows each school district’s adherence to AHERA.
- States are not sharing information with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The study indicated that new rules need to be implemented and acts need to be amended to ensure that children are safe.
“The public deserves access to information about where asbestos can be found in products, school buildings, and elsewhere to empower the public to avoid preventable asbestos exposures,” the study reads.
“The Asbestos Information Act of 1988, which required a one-time publication of asbestos-containing products, needs to be amended to provide consumers with access to current information about asbestos-containing products.”
AHERA must also be strengthened to require the EPA to evaluate states’ AHERA programs every ten years; require the states to communicate information to the EPA on their progress with implementation; and increase funds available for AHERA enforcement. Continued research and outreach is needed to improve public awareness of the danger of asbestos exposure.”
Numerous industries have already banned the use of asbestos in completely after learning of its health hazards. Yet, many of the nation’s schools still contain harmful minerals, which can result in life-threatening diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and asbestos-related lung cancer.
If states and schools aren’t following the required procedures and rules of AHERA, more and more children could be at risk.
The study suggests that around 34% of students in the United States have been subjected to possible asbestos exposure.
Despite numerous other studies that have proven asbestos is toxic and lethal, it still remains legal in the U.S. The EPA attempted to ban the hazardous mineral years ago. In 1991, however, technicalities resulted in the court overturning the ban.
In 2016, the Toxic substances Control Act was overhauled by Congress. It was an attempt to make asbestos (among other hazardous and toxic substances) illegal in the U.S. To date, however, this has not happened.
If your child attends a school that contains asbestos, it’s important to understand the right you have his parents under the AHERA act. You have a legal right to request the school district’s maintenance records, plans, and what active actions the school is taking to ensure the children are safe from asbestos exposure. You also have the right to receive annual notifications in regards to the school’s yearly plans to contain asbestos and keep children safe.
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