Asbestos in Schools

While it might be dangerous, asbestos was also useful. Asbestos is strong, durable, lightweight, fireproof and resistant to heat, salt water, corrosion, electrical conductivity and a host of other biological and chemical processes. Because of this, it was commonly used as an insulating material in schools across the nation. That was particularly true before federal regulators limited the use of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in new construction and in existing buildings. It was used in insulation that surrounded pipes, vents, ducts, gaskets, boilers, furnaces and other items. In fact, it may remain in many primary and secondary schools to this day.

Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act

In 1986, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) was signed into law. This act required local school authorities to regularly inspect schools for asbestos contamination, check airborne asbestos levels and take actions to reduce asbestos hazards. If problems are found, the law gives the schools several options -- enclose or seal the ACMs, repair the damaged asbestos-containing items or prevent the asbestos-containing materials from becoming damaged.

Unfortunately, too many schools are still in violation of AHERA, putting our nation's schoolchildren – as well as teachers, administrators and other staff – at risk for developing mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma in School children

A particularly challenging and tragic aspect of mesothelioma is that it is rarely diagnosed in its early stages. First, it has a latency period lasting anywhere from 10 to 50 years. Second, its symptoms are so similar to those of other respiratory ailments. As a result, mesothelioma goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed all too often.

We may not begin to see school-related mesothelioma diagnoses for some years to come due to this long latency period. Although children who attend schools that have been built since the 1980s are probably not at risk for asbestos exposure, the sad fact remains that this silent killer remains in many primary and secondary schools throughout the nation.

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