Asbestos exposure is a real possibility in many school buildings

The dangers of asbestos have been known for decades. In fact, for over a century, researchers have been connecting certain cancers with prolonged asbestos exposure. Nevertheless, the toxic materials remain in many older buildings in Ohio and across the country. Some parents may be shocked to learn that hundreds of thousands of those buildings are schools.

Asbestos is in some materials once used to make floors, walls and ceilings. A recent report disclosed that over two-thirds of school districts in the country have buildings containing asbestos. Since disturbing the materials sends the toxins into the air, investigators in 1986 determined that the best course of action was to leave it alone and closely monitor it for changes. The 1986 Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act required schools to regularly inspect buildings for asbestos, formulate plans to manage the materials and set protocol for avoiding hazardous conditions.

Additionally, AHERA encourages parents to hold schools responsible by requesting evidence of inspections and management plans. In many districts, parents may be the only ones insuring that the asbestos in a building is monitored and dealt with. Studies show that most schools do little to follow AHERA. The Environmental Protection Agency failed in its efforts to ban asbestos in the eighties, and some advocates believe that parental action may spur the agency to work harder for that ban.

In 1984, the EPA estimated that 15 million students and 1.4 million school employees were at risk of asbestos exposure and related cancers. Now, over 30 years later, many of those same buildings in Ohio and elsewhere are still occupied by teachers and students. School districts that fail to follow AHERA guidelines may be jeopardizing the lives of those children and their teachers. Asbestos-related illnesses can be long, painful and sometimes fatal. Thousands of victims and families of victims have contacted an attorney to pursue possible compensation.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Mismanaged Asbestos In US Schools Threatens Millions Of Children And Teachers", Linda Reinstein, Aug. 29, 2016

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