After the federal government officially recognized in the 1970s that exposure to asbestos fibers increased the risk of long-term health risks, the use of asbestos in products was largely discontinued. However, much of the asbestos already used was not removed, meaning buildings around the country still contain materials that have asbestos in them today. The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) provides special regulations for how asbestos is treated when it is located within schools.
AHERA and Asbestos in Schools
Under AHERA, school districts and non-profit schools, such as charter or religious schools, are required to:
1. Inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material; and
2. Prepare management plans and to take action to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards.
An initial inspection is required to determine whether any asbestos-containing materials are present. In addition, a re-inspection of any materials that contain asbestos must be completed every three years. The inspections must be completed by trained and licensed professionals. However, schools must also provide training to members of the custodial staff on asbestos awareness.
A copy of the asbestos management plan must be kept at the school. The plan should document recommended response action, the location of the asbestos in the school, and any action that has been taken to repair or remove asbestos-containing material. AHERA also requires schools to provide yearly notification to parents, teachers, and employee organizations on the availability of the management plan.
The removal of materials containing asbestos is usually not required unless the material is severely damaged or will be disturbed as a result of demolition or renovation of the building. This is because asbestos is not dangerous as long as it is not disturbed. Disturbing or damaging asbestos causes the release of microscopic fibers into the air that, if breathed in, can cause significant health risks. As a result of this danger, if asbestos must be removed, the school must comply with the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP).
NESHAP requires notification to the proper state agency prior to demolition or any renovation of a building that could contain a certain threshold amount of asbestos. Further, NESHAP requires that the following procedures be followed during removal of asbestos:
- Wetting the asbestos-containing removal;
- Sealing the asbestos-containing material in leak-tight containers; and
- Disposal of the asbestos-containing material as expediently as possible.
The focus of NESHAP is to ensure that the area where work is being performed is not contaminated and that, after the work is completed, there will not be a contamination.
Help for Mesothelioma and Asbestos-related Cancer Victims
While the use of asbestos ended in the 1970s, it is still common to find asbestos-containing materials in buildings today. Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause serious health consequences, such as mesothelioma or other cancers. If you are suffering from mesothelioma or an asbestos-related cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos, you should speak with an attorney experienced in asbestos-related matters. At the Throneberry Law Group, we can help you explore and understand all of your legal options.