The campaign, created by state Attorney General Maura Healey, will educate at-risk populations, including children, the elderly and low-income families, about protection from asbestos through a multi-faceted approach that partners state agencies with local school districts, according to a press release by the Attorney General’s Office.
“Asbestos can be found in many homes, schools, and workplaces, and if it is not handled properly it poses a serious health risk,” Healey said. “Too often, children, families, and workers are exposed to airborne asbestos fibers due to shoddy or unlicensed work, and many aren’t aware of the serious danger it poses. Our new initiative will focus on educating school districts on the dangers asbestos exposure can pose to children and employees and on taking action against those who put families and workers at risk from illegal asbestos work.”
Asbestos, a group of six silicate minerals, was heavily used in a variety of products, including construction materials and insulation, from the 1930s through the 1970s. Now it is known to cause deadly mesothelioma. The cancer affects the lining of the heart, lungs or abdomen, and though it has a latency period of 20 to 40 years, mesothelioma patients only live an average of one year after diagnosis.
The initiative aims to curb those potential health risks through educating the public and comes in light of a report issued by U.S. Senator Edward Markey’s office in December 2015. Failing the Grade: Asbestos in America’s Schools highlights the continued presence of asbestos in American schools. About two-thirds of local education agencies from the 15 states that responded have schools harboring asbestos. The report also found states appear to lack consistent inspections, do not report record-keeping activities intended to keep track of asbestos hazards, and rarely issue enforcement actions.
Through the program, the AG’s Office will reach out to schools to assess the presence of asbestos and help them adhere to federal and state laws. The initiative also prioritizes asbestos regulation violations involving at-risk populations for prosecution.