Students may be out of school for summer vacation, but many schools across the country are still filled with something else – asbestos. Schools that were built prior to 1970, typically contain asbestos. It can be present in various products and building materials, including chalkboards, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, insulation, pipes, and more.
The dangers of asbestos were recognized by Congress with its passage of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, known as AHERA, in 1986. AHERA and its regulations set out complex requirements for public school districts (subdivisions of state government) and private schools to inspect their buildings for the presence of asbestos, create asbestos management plans, provide relevant employee training and reduce the potential for hazardous exposure. During renovation or demolition, national safety standards must be followed and trained professionals used to perform the work.
School districts typically address asbestos-related issues during the summer time to mitigate any risk of exposing students and staff. It was recently reported in Dallas that approximately 50 schools are being renovated, and some of them contain asbestos. Community members are concerned, but the construction crew claims it is taking all necessary precautions and following standards. Although, there may still be reason for concern because federal regulations do not necessarily require removal of asbestos. For example, if a school’s asbestos-containing thermal insulation is damaged, the local education agency is simply required to repair the damaged area. The damaged insulation will only be removed if the repair is not feasible for some reason.
AHERA also grants to citizens the right to request information about asbestos in individual school districts. If your child attends school in an older building, it is perfectly acceptable to ask if the dangerous carcinogen is present. If yes, you should also ask what the plans are to remove it. If you believe that you or your child may have been exposed to asbestos, speak with an attorney.