Managing Asbestos: Hawaii Schools Must Be Careful When Making Repairs

Schools Need Asbestos Management Plans to Keep Students and Teachers Safe

Kane'ohe, HI - May 20, 2005 - When sanding the exterior of King Intermediate School last November, workers discovered the presence of asbestos, according to a recent news story (Honolulu Advertiser, May 9, 2005). The school was shut down for five days as it was tested and cleaned. The state Department of Health did not issue a fine in this case. However, the incident does bring up the problem of asbestos in schools.

Until the 1970s, asbestos was part of floor tiles, ceiling tiles, pipe insulation, roofing felts, shingles, siding, wallboard, and fireproofing materials-products commonly used in the construction of Hawaii schools. Asbestos poses a danger if it is disturbed, drilled into, or damaged. For example, frayed insulation could release asbestos fibers or dust. Once asbestos becomes airborne, it can be inhaled by students, teachers, and other school workers.

Federal law requires schools, including those in Hawaii, to inspect buildings for materials that contain asbestos, then prepare and implement asbestos management plans. Depending on the condition of the asbestos, the plan may involve repairing damaged asbestos-containing material, checking its condition, removing the material, or finding ways to enclose the asbestos so that it does not release fibers.

Parents, teachers, and employees must receive annual notices about the asbestos management plan. Even after carrying out the plan, the school must continue to monitor asbestos-containing building materials to make sure that they remain in good condition.

Geraldine Best, a teacher at King Intermediate, said that she is concerned that the state Department of Education is not doing all it can about the Hawaii asbestos issue (Honolulu Advertiser, May 9, 2005). She says that she will keep the names of the students exposed to asbestos on file. However, Ms. Best may have to keep these names around for a very long time. Asbestos diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma often take decades to develop, and people exposed to the substance may not develop symptoms for years.

Brayton Purcell is concerned about exposure to asbestos at work, in the home, and in public buildings. Please feel free to contact uswith any questions about your injuries from asbestos exposure. We have over 20 years experience in handling asbestos claims. We handle cases in Hawaii with our local counsel, Richard Turbin, as well as on the mainland. For more information about federal laws concerning asbestos in Hawaii schools, see the Environmental Protection Agency web site.