What should parents know about asbestos in schools?

Earlier in March, three Philadelphia schools caught the attention of national news outlets as they discovered the presence of asbestos. These schools shut down to prevent further risk to students, but it still left many families across the nation rattled.

Unfortunately, asbestos is not just a danger of the past. Parents here in north Georgia and southeast Tennessee may wonder: what is the risk of asbestos exposure in schools?

It depends on when schools were built

The risk of asbestos depends heavily on the date of construction. As we have discussed in past blog posts, asbestos was a common material used in construction because of its fire resistance.

Schools built in the 1970s or earlier may likely have asbestos within the building materials. Meanwhile, schools built after 1989 – the year that the Environmental Protection Agency banned most asbestos products – should not have asbestos.

What about Tennessee?

Even if schools were built in the 20th century, there are laws in place to protect students and teachers from asbestos exposure. Schools across the nation must adhere to the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), which requires schools to:

  • Inspect and monitor schools for asbestos
  • Remove asbestos if it is a risk
  • Report how many schools carry a risk

As of 2015, potentially 1,849 schools in Tennessee had asbestos within their building materials, according to a report by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. However, as frightening as that number might seem, parents probably do not need to worry much.

What should parents of students know?

Parents may have heard about the risks of asbestos from older family members. Perhaps you are even facing such struggles yourself, if your parents faced exposure and now face a mesothelioma diagnosis. Before the worry sets in, there are a few things parents should consider:

  • Is the building or material intact?: If the material containing asbestos is intact, then the risk of exposure is low. Deteriorating buildings or materials like insulation involve a higher risk of releasing asbestos fibers into the air, therefore increasing the risk of exposure.
  • Many factors determine risk: No exposure to asbestos is safe, but many factors increase the risk to one’s health, including prolonged or repeated exposure and the amount of asbestos present at the time of exposure.
  • Know the law: As we mentioned above, schools and organizations are supposed to follow strict procedures to protect individuals from the risks of asbestos. It is helpful to be aware of these rules and procedures, so you can stay informed.

News like this can be alarming. However, it can help parents to pause and make sure they understand the risks and protections in place.

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