Much of the United States’ highly used 20th century infrastructure was fraught with asbestos, and our schools are no exception. Buildings completed before the 1980s are likely to contain asbestos, and considering that nearly 50% of schools in the U.S. were completed between the 1950s and 1970s, there are a significant number of institutions out there that contain some form of the material.
History of Using Asbestos in Constructing Buildings
While untouched asbestos is dormant, the danger is still present. Addressing its existence in our children’s schools is key to undoing the damage caused by years of widespread asbestos use—and to ensuring the safety of students nationwide.
Although whispers of asbestos’ danger to public health have been around since the 19th century, there wasn’t widespread knowledge or significant evidence of its risk until years later. In the meantime, the material became extremely popular in the United States and abroad, with its benefits seemingly outweighing any possible drawbacks.
Asbestos was thought to have had a lot of appealing qualities about it. First of all, it is cheap, making it a cost-effective option for public buildings such as military buildings and, of course, schools.
Asbestos was lauded for its multipurpose nature. A fire-retardant, affordable, insulative material with incredible tensile strength and thousands of varied applications, asbestos seemed too good to pass up.
Asbestos Products in Schools
Asbestos was used to build schools in many ways as it served several functions.
A few of the common applications of asbestos in U.S. schools included:
- Pipe wrap
- Ceiling and flooring tiles
- Roof and textured coatings
- Roofing shingles
- Safety curtains for stage use
- Lab counters and tables
- Blackboard backing
While most of these uses are no longer a danger, asbestos is still present today in the structures of many schools. The extent of its threat is difficult to discern—asbestos is most dangerous when it’s disturbed and the fibers become airborne. This is when the asbestos fibers can most easily be inhaled and ingested.
However, dormant asbestos is still a risk. As the asbestos-containing materials in a school age, the risk only grows higher.
Asbestos Exposure in Schools
When we think about those who were unfairly exposed to asbestos over the years, many people might immediately think of employees in heavy industrial fields or the military—and rightfully so. However, those in the public school system are often overlooked. The impact asbestos exposure had on students and employees is not negligible.
In 1982, The Environmental Protection Agency released a report stating that between 100,000 and 300,000 teachers working at 8,600 different schools were exposed to airborne asbestos fibers in their classrooms.
Of course, exposure was not limited to these staff members either. Students and visitors to the school were also subjected to the hazards of the material.
What Are the Regulations Today Around Asbestos in Schools in the U.S.?
Since the enactment of Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), U.S. schools have been required to comply with the following asbestos regulations:
- Schools must perform a preliminary inspection to identify the presence of any asbestos-containing materials. They must then perform follow-up inspections on asbestos-containing materials every 3 years.
- Schools must create an asbestos management plan, maintain and update it, and keep a copy in the school.
- Schools must notify parent, teacher and employee organizations that the asbestos management plan is available for their review on an annual basis. They must also inform these organizations of any upcoming actions related to the asbestos.
- Schools must designate a point of contact who can ensure that the responsibilities of the school or school district are properly implemented.
- Schools must conduct regular surveillance of any known or suspected asbestos-containing building materials.
- Schools must make sure that any inspections and asbestos-related actions are carried out by appropriately qualified professionals.
- Schools must provide their custodial staff members with applicable asbestos training.
Compensation for Asbestos Exposure at Schools
The compensation options for individuals who have developed an asbestos-related illness due to exposure are significant. If either you or someone you love has developed mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos at school or work, there is a good chance that you qualify for some form of compensation.
We strongly recommend that you work with a qualified mesothelioma attorney from a reputable and specialized law firm when pursuing compensation. Contact the our Justice Support Team today to learn more about seeking justice for your asbestos exposure and illness.