Although it has been well established that asbestos is a dangerous, cancer-causing substance, this was not always the case. For many years, the fire and heat retardant set of toxic minerals was a standard component in industrial and construction settings. Asbestos provided effective, inexpensive insulation and fireproofing for buildings and boilers alike.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a building constructed prior to the 1980s that did not include asbestos in one form or another, and that is particularly true of America’s schools where asbestos is a national problem.
Once the dangers of asbestos exposure became known, Congress passed the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), which required school personnel to inspect their surrounding on a regular basis and to train their maintenance and other staff to keep an eye out and use special procedures when approaching the deadly substance.
A recent report has shown that very few schools across the country are paying attention to this law. As a result, teachers and students alike are at risk of exposure that could cause malignant mesothelioma years down the road.
A federal inquiry conducted in 2015 asked the nation’s states to gather information from their schools as to how much asbestos was still in place, and what action was being taken to monitor it. The investigation was led by U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat.
Their report was titled, “Failing the Grade: Asbestos in America’s Schools,” and what it found is particularly alarming. Few state officials have any knowledge about how much asbestos is present in their schools, according to the report.
The senators were particularly alarmed by the lack of response to their inquiry. Only 20 states responded to their survey. Of those, two-thirds of the districts had schools with asbestos. Digging deeper, they found that less than 8 percent of the schools were regularly inspecting it to determine whether it posed a threat.
“When it comes to asbestos in our schools, we know too little, but what we do know indicates we have a widespread problem in addressing this toxic threat, both in Massachusetts and across the country,” said Senator Markey, who is pushing for information to be made available to the public about asbestos-contaminated school buildings.
“Decades of inaction have put students and teachers at risk of asbestos exposure.”
Disinterest and apathy about the presence of asbestos is nothing new. It’s the story behind far too many cases of malignant mesothelioma. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to compensation from those who did not take action to protect you.