Abestos in School Building Materials

Schools, like many other buildings built prior to 1978, often contain asbestos. Asbestos was used in many of the building materials that are common in schools. Ceiling tiles, vinyl floor covering and the duct work for the heating and cooling system all may contain asbestos. Ceiling tiles, vinyl floor covering and the duct work for […]

Schools, like many other buildings built prior to 1978, often contain asbestos. Asbestos was used in many of the building materials that are common in schools. Ceiling tiles, vinyl floor covering and the duct work for the heating and cooling system all may contain asbestos.

Ceiling tiles, vinyl floor covering and the duct work for the heating and cooling system all may contain asbestos.

At the time it was not well known how harmful asbestos was when it is released into the air. It was used because it is flame resistant and has excellent insulating properties. It was also readily available. These attributes made it an ideal component for building materials.

Asbestos exposure can cause long term health problems. Once the medical evidence showed a connection between mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer, and asbestos exposure, asbestos containing building materials stopped being manufactured. Unfortunately, the peak building years for schools, the 1950s, 60s and 70s, coincide with the time that asbestos products were most widely used in buildings. Suddenly there were schools across the country that were practically new, but contained a potentially life threatening material.

The Environmental Protection Agency stepped in with a plan for managing asbestos containing materials in schools. AHERA, or Asbestos Hazardous Emergency Response Act, was implemented to provide a nationwide standard for asbestos management in schools, both public and private.

AHERA states that any school that has asbestos containing building materials must undergo an inspection by a licensed professional every three years, and the areas that actually contain asbestos must be visually inspected by school personnel regularly. AHERA also sets in place guidelines that mandate training for maintenance and janitorial staff so that they are qualified to recognize if the building materials present a health risk. Another component of AHERA is that each school that contains asbestos must prepare a plan for managing asbestos and make this report available to the public.

 

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