The Danger of Asbestos in Schools

Back-to-school sales are in full swing, and students across the country are preparing to hit the books once again. As students stock up on notebooks, pencils and binders, one concern that may be low on the list is asbestos. Many parents, however, have fears about asbestos in school buildings. As you prepare to send your child off to start a new school year, it can be reassuring to separate fact from myth when it comes to asbestos and schools.

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

Fact: Many schools still contain and manage some asbestos materials found in places such as insulation, tiles, pipes, and boilers.

Myth: Information about asbestos in schools is kept confidential.

Fact: 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: 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: If asbestos is damaged and rendered airborne, it is more likely to be inhaled and poses more of a danger. If it is sealed and contained in compliance with EPA regulations, it is less of a threat. Asbestos diseases do not develop immediately, if organ damage occurs from inhalation of asbestos it would not be clinically detectable for several years.

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.


Jessica McNeil is a Litigation Paralegal at Cooney & Conway. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan and a paralegal certificate from Loyola University Chicago. You can find Jessica on Google+ and LinkedIn.

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