Asbestos in schools: Who should be held accountable for asbestos abatement?

11 Aug 2015 by under News

School Buses 435x287 100x100 Asbestos in schools: Who should be held accountable for asbestos abatement?The Ocean View school district, located in California, was in for an unpleasant surprise when construction workers discovered dangerous asbestos in 11 school buildings in 2014.

Between the 1940s and 1970s, asbestos was regularly used in building materials like floor tiles, as well as shingles and ceiling plaster for fire protection, and in insulation, up until the 1970s. While stable, undisturbed asbestos does not necessarily pose a health risk, if deteriorated or tampered with, such in a renovation, asbestos become airborne and can be inhaled or ingested. This type of exposure can lead to the development of , a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen or, in rare cases, the heart. There is no known cure for mesothelioma.

As a result of the asbestos discovery, nearly 1,700 children were displaced and three elementary schools were closed for the remainder of the school year. Although one of the schools plans to reopen at the end of this month, the other two are closed indefinitely until all of the carcinogen is safely removed. The costs of the extensive asbestos removal reached $15 million, forcing the school district to take out a loan to help cover the exorbitant expenses.

“Everyone has asbestos, but they don’t want to deal with it,” said Gina Clayton-Tarvin, president of the Ocean View school board. “To abate it is absolutely astronomically expensive.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly 15 million students and 1.4 million teachers were at risk of asbestos exposure in 1984. The EPA’s discovery then led to new legislation passed by Congress requiring both public and private schools to regularly inspect buildings for asbestos and clean any asbestos-related hazards and report the actions taken.

Today, no one knows exactly how many schools still contain asbestos. Sen. Edward M. Markey (D-Mass.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate subcommittee currently supervising chemical policy, believes that they are unable to measure whether schools are complying with the asbestos law, or even if a government agency is still enforcing it.

“If there are gaps in enforcement, legislative or other reforms may be needed to ensure schools are free from this toxic hazard,” Markey said. In order to increase asbestos abatement in schools, Markey believes the government should help cover the costs. The government’s involvement in asbestos abatement has been called into question by a number of experts hoping to protect U.S. citizens from the harmful effects of the carcinogen.

“We don’t have any indication that the government is doing its job to make sure measures are in place,” said senior analyst Sonya Lunder with the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG Action Fund recently began a public awareness campaign to remind Americans of the dangers of asbestos exposure and the need for government involvement.

“We spray this stuff on because it’s safe,” Clayton-Tarvin said about the U.S.’s former usage of asbestos. “Then they find out it’s not safe. Really, whose responsibility is it? I don’t think it’s the school district. We’re trying to educate kids today. We shouldn’t be responsible for paying for past sins.”

Source: Washington Post

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