There have been increasing reports of schools closing due to asbestos contamination.
This is a scary thought for anyone familiar with the dangers of asbestos,
but terrifying for parents of children who are possibly being exposed
to the deadly mineral on a daily basis.
Environmental Working Group reports on this issue, and is urging California officials to inspect all schools
for asbestos. Immediately.
In 2014, three schools in Huntington Beach were closed due to asbestos
contamination. In just one city in Northern California, asbestos was found
in 34 schools. Any school built before 1980 is likely to contain asbestos,
unless it’s undergone significant remodeling. About half of all
schools in the U.S. were built from 1950 to 1969.
Schools are supposed to have asbestos management plans to keep track of
inspections for asbestos, and any instances of asbestos being found and
in turn how it is dealt with. In 1982, the Environmental Protection Agency
issued the Asbestos-in-Schools rule, requiring schools to do so, and to
make this information openly available to teachers, parents and school
workers. If a school fails to conduct an inspection or develop an asbestos
management plan, the EPA can fine the school up to $5,000.
Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California
wrote to all 50 states this past May asking for information on how asbestos is monitored in each
state’s schools, noting in their letters that since Congress enacted
the 1986 Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act almost 30 years ago, the
extent of asbestos hazards remaining in schools across the nation is largely unknown.
Although the numbers appear small, teachers account for approximately 2%
of mesothelioma deaths. A 2007 “Work-Related Lung Disease Surveillance
Report” from OSHA, noted that elementary school teachers are more
than twice as likely to die from the disease than the average Americans
(2007 was the latest year available).
It is believed that children exposed to asbestos are at even greater risk
of developing asbestos related diseases than persons exposed as adults.
Our children deserve a better legacy than fear of asbestos. Until asbestos
is banned completely, the danger of asbestos exposure will only continue to grow.