Awareness of the deadly dangers of asbestos has been in the public consciousness since the 1980s. Once considered miraculous, the potentially fatal fibers have killed countless victims unknowingly exposed to them.
Many of them were school-age children and the staff that provides education and support. Particularly hard-hit are marginalized areas of the country that simply do not have the resources to secure the protection they need. One school, in particular, was found to have 50 times more fibers than the dust in apartments closest to the 9/11 attacks.
Once inhaled, the fibers find their way to the lungs. Once lodged in, complications can set in that impact health not noticed for decades. For this and countless other reasons, asbestos is banned in more than 50 countries.
Outright asbestos bans remain out of reach
Yet, the United States refuses to enact complete prohibitions that could protect the health of school-age studies and the entire populace, if not save lives. Systematic surveys in buildings throughout the country have not occurred in almost 40 years. Data collection at the federal level on conditions has been replaced with managing the presence of asbestos in buildings housing staff and students.
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) mandates educational institutions to conduct inspections in their buildings to identify the presence of asbestos. If fibers are detected, asbestos management plans must be put in place to reduce or outright prevent potential hazards.
The alarming lack of accountability continues with teachers, parents, and media members shouldering the burdens and telling their stories. However, their accounts and pleas continue to fall on deaf ears of officials with the power to make a significant interest in the health and safety of staff and students.
The patchwork process in place will have to suffice until the U.S. takes action and joins a worldwide community and ban asbestos once and for all.