Decades ago, asbestos was a go-to material for new city developments. Health officials only discovered its harmful effects much later. As a result, numerous offices, homes, stores and restaurants may still contain the dangerous substance.
Among these affected buildings are schools. Across America, some schools have required renovations to remove asbestos. However, this problem can go undetected for years until a new addition reveals hidden issues or until someone speaks up. To this day, some schools need to close while professionals work to remove every trace.
Are schools required to check for asbestos?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) both require schools to manage asbestos risks. This means that schools need to appoint an employee to schedule tests to identify and resolve any evidence of unsafe asbestos. These inspections must happen every three years.
However, local schools don't always have the resources to properly test and remove asbestos, so they may try to hide it. Schools might fail to fully train the staff member in charge of this problem. The appointed staff may also ignore their duty. These mistakes can create health risks for everyone who attends the school.
Is my child exposed to asbestos at school?
In one study researchers found that children were especially vulnerable to the impact of asbestos. In fact, they were five times more likely to suffer Mesothelioma than the average adult. For this reason, schools must keep parents informed of their building safety efforts.
Parents are not able to inspect school property themselves, but they can direct concerns to the school's leadership. Parents and teachers may report serious complaints to EPA or OSHA.
Teachers are also at risk
Teachers, professors and school staff members could spend their entire career in the same school building. This long-term exposure to asbestos could lead to health complications - even long before retirement age. Out of all occupations with exposure to asbestos, teachers faced the second highest number of related fatalities, which were only outnumbered by those of construction workers.
School districts may be liable if a teacher or student suffers from a resulting disease. Because they have a legal responsibility to monitor asbestos hazards on school grounds, a school's negligence could become the focus of a lawsuit.