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The Dangers of Asbestos in Public Schools

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on July 19th, 2016

As asbestos-related risks became increasingly known, the public grew concerned about the potential effects of asbestos exposure in schools. If your child's school was built before the 1980s, you should assume that it contains asbestos.

Public schools, just as non-profit private schools, have specific regulatory requirements, according to the EPA, to protect children and employees from asbestos exposure. However, earlier this year, a new report showed that hundreds of students and school employees risk exposure to deadly asbestos in nearly 200 Chicago public schools. In 2013, Chicago Public School (CPS) officials hired inspectors to identify all the buildings that pose a real threat.

Mismanaged Asbestos in Schools Threatens Millions of Children

Children are particularly vulnerable to asbestos because their lungs are still developing and they breathe more rapidly than adults, thus taking in more air. Consequently, they may carry a higher risk than adults of developing asbestos-related diseases over their lifetime.

184 elementary, middle and high schools were thoroughly verified and the inspectors only found 11 buildings that had complied with the recommendations. The results were published in a 2015 CPS asbestos surveillance update. This is alarming news for everybody involved in the study, as well as for parents and school employees alike. According to the report, some schools were identified to have damaged asbestos-containing pipe insulation that apparently was separating at some places. Thus, all Chicago public schools identified to pose a real threat failed to follow the recommendations received from the contracted inspectors and violated the asbestos policy described in the Facility Performance Standards.

Complying with the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA)

The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) and its regulations require public school districts and non-profit schools including charter schools and schools affiliated with religious institutions to:

  • perform an original inspection to determine whether asbestos-containing materials are present;
  • re-inspect asbestos-containing material(s) in the affected areas every 3 years;
  • develop, maintain, and update an asbestos management plan and keep a copy at the school at all times;
  • provide each year notification to parent/teacher/employee organizations on the availability of the school's asbestos management plan and any asbestos-related actions taken or planned in the school;
  • designate a contact person to properly implement the responsibilities of the public school district or the non-profit school;
  • perform periodic surveillance of known/suspected asbestos-containing building material;
  • ensure that trained and licensed professionals perform inspections and take response actions;
  • provide custodial staff with asbestos-awareness training.

Requirements for Asbestos Management in Schools

An asbestos management plan is an effective way to help school duty holders to control asbestos in their premises. School authorities must maintain records that are included in the Asbestos Management Plan, including:

  • name and address of each school and whether it has asbestos-containing building material, and the type of asbestos-containing material;
  • date of the original school inspection;
  • plan for re-inspections;
  • a blueprint that clearly identifies the location of the asbestos that remains in the school;
  • description of any response action or preventive measures taken to reduce asbestos exposure;
  • a copy of the analysis of any building, name, and address of the laboratory that sampled the material;
  • name, address, and telephone number of the designated person in charge of ensuring the duties of the school district or non-profit private school are carried out;
  • description of steps taken to inform workers, teachers, and students or their legal guardians about inspections, reinspections, response actions, and periodic surveillance.

In order to be represented in an asbestos case, you need to have a disease caused by asbestos exposure and also have occupational or second-hand exposure. Our attorneys have helped asbestos victims for more than 25 years. If you or a family member is suffering from an asbestos-related disease, contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.

While we cannot represent clients involved in cases like the one described above, we aim to raise awareness about the presence of asbestos in public buildings.