Since the materials used to build many of the buildings in America contained asbestos, it is not uncommon to find the substance in older schools. Asbestos can often be found in floor and ceiling tiles, acoustical plaster, pipe insulation, and other materials. Fortunately the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 (AHERA) exists to protect students and school employees from exposure on campus.
AHERA was implemented under the Toxic Substance Control Act in 1986. It was established to put protocols and procedures in place to deal with asbestos in school buildings. Since the asbestos materials and products present in schools are often very old, they can break down and become friable, which can pose a hazard to students, teachers, and other school employees.
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act requires public and non-profit private schools to:
- Perform an original inspection to determine whether asbestos-containing materials are present and then re-inspect asbestos-containing material in each school every three years
- Develop, maintain, and update an asbestos management plan and keep a copy at the school
- Provide yearly notification to parent, teacher, and employee organizations on the availability of the school's asbestos management plan and any asbestos-related actions taken or planned in the school
- Designate a contact person to ensure the responsibilities of the public school district or the non-profit school are properly implemented
- Perform periodic surveillance of known or suspected asbestos-containing building material
- Ensure that trained and licensed professionals perform inspections and take response actions
- Provide custodial staff with asbestos-awareness training
If asbestos-containing materials are severely damaged or pose danger or will be disturbed by a building demolition or renovation project, the school must have the asbestos removed in accordance with the Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan. Recently, three elementary schools were closed in Orange County, California, while asbestos was removed from buildings on the campuses. Over 1,600 students were displaced during the abatement processes.
Asbestos exposure can lead to debilitating and fatal diseases, like mesothelioma. If you are worried about your child's health at school, do not hesitate to inquire to your school district about their AHERA procedures.