An internal Environmental Protection Agency watchdog group says that the agency is failing in its mission to monitor asbestos in schools across the country.
As part of a 1986 federal law, the EPA is responsible for monitoring the status of asbestos in school and removing asbestos in school buildings. Unfortunately, the agency is now shifting resources – both manpower and funding – away from the initiative, even though the threat of contamination remains.
The Office of the Inspector General of the EPA, an independently funded internal watchdog and safety group, says that the EPA isn’t doing nearly enough to adequately look out for asbestos in schools, citing the Dallas regional office as an egregious example. That office neglected to perform any checks at all throughout the Southwest region of the U.S. between 2012 and 2016.
Many regional and state EPA offices have eliminated funding for the school asbestos oversight program altogether, or are so understaffed and underfunded that they only perform inspections after receiving a particular complaint or allegation of non-compliance with federal regulations regarding asbestos contamination or abatement.
As we’ve written in the past, asbestos is a carcinogenic material that was commonly used in fireproofing and for other industrial uses up until it was banned over 30 years ago. It has been linked to numerous health problems, diseases and conditions, including mesothelioma, asbestosis and several types of cancers.
It is particularly important to ensure that school buildings are free from asbestos contamination to avoid exposing young children to its harmful effects. These budget and manpower cuts make it extremely difficult for that to occur.