Asbestos in Schools: Myth vs. Fact

Back to school written on chalkboard

As another school year begins, many students and parents have completed the familiar fall ritual of shopping for their back-to-school needs. While clothing and traditional school supplies still top the shopping lists of most families, recent surveys show that computers and electronic devices are also becoming more significant classroom tools for many students when the school bell rings.

As we move forward and embrace advances in the modern classroom, it can be easy to forget that some school buildings still contain links to a darker past, in the form of asbestos lurking in places such as insulation and pipes. Many people mistakenly believe that the cancer-causing material has been removed from all buildings.

As your children begin a new school year, it can be reassuring to separate fact from myth when it comes to asbestos and schools.

The Truth About Asbestos in Schools

Myth: All asbestos materials were removed from school buildings years ago.

Fact: Asbestos may still be found in some buildings. Many schools still contain and manage some asbestos materials found in places such as insulation, tiles, pipes, and boilers. Per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the removal of asbestos can create more of a health threat than managing asbestos in place. 

Myth: Asbestos poses an immediate health risk to children in schools.

Fact: Not always. If it is left undamaged undisturbed, asbestos does not pose an immediate danger. Friable asbestos (asbestos which crumbles) does present a health risk as it is more likely to become airborne and to be inhaled.

Myth: Information about asbestos in schools is kept confidential.

Fact: Schools must let you see their asbestos information if you ask. The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), passed by Congress in the mid-eighties, requires public and non-profit private schools known to contain asbestos to have an Asbestos Management Plan, which parents, teachers, and other school workers have a right to examine. A copy of the management plan is kept at each school and must be produced for review within five business days of a request. Contact your school’s administrative office if you wish to see the plan.

Myth: Schools that are known to contain asbestos are not inspected regularly. The asbestos is forgotten about.

Fact: Schools that contain asbestos are re-inspected every three years. In addition, examination and monitoring of asbestos-containing materials occurs every six months per EPA regulations. Inspectors must be properly accredited.

Myth: My child is at a high risk of developing asbestos-related illness and must see a doctor immediately if his or her school contains asbestos.

Fact: Asbestos isn't always dangerous. Per the EPA, if asbestos is properly managed and consistently monitored and inspected, it is not necessarily hazardous to your child’s health. If asbestos is damaged and rendered airborne, it is more likely to be inhaled and poses more of a danger.

How To Learn About Asbestos in Your Child's School

Becoming familiar with the Asbestos Management Plan at your child’s school is one of the best ways to ease any worries you may have. School districts must designate a contact person who enforces the management plan and makes sure that asbestos guidelines are being met. If you have a specific question or concern about asbestos in your child’s school, it may be helpful to reach out to the designated asbestos contact. His or her name and phone number should be included in the Asbestos Management Plan.

About Cooney & Conway

Founded in 1958, Cooney & Conway is a plaintiffs-only law firm located in the heart of downtown Chicago, Illinois. An impressive team of exceptional attorneys has decades of successful litigation experience. A significant practice area of the firm is asbestos litigation, where professional litigators serve as compassionate advocates for victims of asbestos-related injuries and their families. In our years of practice, Cooney & Conway successfully handled large numbers of asbestos and mesothelioma litigation cases in Illinois and throughout the United States.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another lung disease or cancer that may be related to asbestos exposure, call Cooney & Conway toll-free at 800-322-5573, or simply fill out the contact form on this page and a knowledgeable representative will respond shortly.