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Asbestos in Schools

In 1986, Congress passed the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) to protect public and private school children and school employees from asbestos exposure. AHERA acknowledges that asbestos materials in schools that are intact generally do not pose a health risk, and includes provisions to monitor the condition of asbestos-containing materials, to manage the materials, and to keep open the lines of communication between all interested parties. The provisions of AHERA are relevant for schools in the United States and its possessions. If asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can lead to health problems such as cancer and asbestosis; it may be 20 years or more before symptoms appear. Failure to comply with AHERA regulations can result in penalties of up to $5,500 per day, per school

Provisions of AHERA

Each school must designate and train a person to oversee asbestos-related activities in the school. This person can be a consultant or a school employee.

All buildings must be inspected for the presence of asbestos-containing materials.

A management plan for controlling asbestos exposure must be developed, using accredited inspection personnel to implement the plan.

All records should be available for public review.

All teachers, parents and employees should be informed annually about the asbestos-related activities in the school.

In the past school districts have been fined for failing to meet provisions of AHERA. This is not, however, an area of litigation that this law office handles.

Further Information

If you have questions regarding asbestos in a particular school, you can speak to the person designated at that school to oversee asbestos-related issues. You can also speak to your local Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Asbestos Regional coordinator (listed below) or call the Environmental Protection Agency Asbestos Ombudsman at (800)368-5888.

Asbestos in Schools Resource Links

100 Commonly Asked Questions about the New AHERA Asbestos-in-Schools Rule

(Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC , 1988)
This is a collection of commonly asked questions about the new Asbestos-Containing Material in Schools rule announced by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in October 1987, under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) of 1986.

Asbestos in Schools: The Latest Phantom Risk
by Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan

ABCs of Asbestos in Schools. Revised Edition.

(Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, Washington, DC , Aug 2003)
This pamphlet can help parents and teachers answer questions and learn the facts about asbestos in schools. It also outlines the responsibilities of school boards and other school officials to protect school children and employees from possible exposure to asbestos.

Evaluation of the Implementation of Asbestos Operations and Maintenance Programs in New Jersey Schools.
All schools are required to develop and implement an asbestos management plan (AMP). The key component of this plan is each school's operations and maintenance (O&M) program. This report outlines the importance of such programs.

Asbestos Abatement and Management Activities in New Jersey Schools.

(New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Consumer and Environmental Health Services , Jul 1996)
This concise advisory bulletin provides information regarding asbestos management programs in schools. It is intended to assist schools that have conducted asbestos abatement, schools that plan to perform asbestos removal projects, or schools that will continue asbestos abatement operations and maintenance activities.

Guidance Manual: Asbestos Operations & Maintenance Work Practices
(National Institute of Building Sciences, Washington, DC , 1996)
This technical manual provides detailed guidance to building owners, asbestos program managers, and operations and maintenance (O&M) workers for managing asbestos-containing materials (ACM) in buildings. The manual addresses four different types of ACM found in buildings and three different levels of precaution which may be warranted by specific building conditions.

How to Manage Asbestos in School Buildings: AHERA Designated Person's Self-Study Guide.

(Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC , 1996)
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires schools to appoint an asbestos management coordinator called the "AHERA (Asbestos Hazardous Emergency Response Act) designated person" (DP) who is responsible for a number of asbestos-related activities. This manual presents some recommendations designed to help those persons appointed to this position understand his or her responsibilities.

Airborne Asbestos Concentrations During Buffing of Resilient Floor Tile in New Jersey Schools.

This is an abstract describing a study conducted to determine the level of airborne asbestos concentrations during routine spray-buffing of asbestos-containing floor tiles at seventeen schools in northern, central, and southern New Jersey. Several recommendations that were developed as a result of the conclusions from this study are summarized.

Asbestos Risk Management Issues for Our Schools.

( New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Lead and Asbestos Program, Trenton, NJ , 1994)
This brief report provides the results of the first four years of studies documenting asbestos abatement and management activities in New Jersey schools required by the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA).

Schools Respond to Risk Management Programs for Asbestos, Lead in Drinking Water and Radon

This paper summarizes the findings of a study that examined the effectiveness of risk communication materials, information dissemination and assistance efforts and selected regulatory design strategies for three different risk management programs for public schools that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated in response to Congressional mandates.

Toxic Substances: Information on Costs and Financial Aid to Schools To Control Asbestos
(General Accounting Office, Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division, Washington, DC , 1992)
Information on the costs of and financial aid available to schools for asbestos abatement is provided in this report. Data are based on interviews with officials from 15 school districts in 5 states--Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Section 1 provides background on the use of asbestos in buildings, health problems, federal legislation and regulations, and the study's research design

Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions about Reinspections under the AHERA Asbestos-In-Schools Rule
(Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC , 1991)
This document was prepared in response to inquiries that have been received by the Environmental Protection Agency concerning the reinspection requirements and related provisions of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) regulations.

Asbestos in Schools: Evaluation of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA): A Summary Report
(Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC , 1991)
In fall 1989, the initial implementation of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 (AHERA) was evaluated. This report summarizes evaluation results presented in a two-volume final report and appendices. AHERA regulations required: (1) inspection of all elementary and secondary schools to identify any asbestos-containing building materials present; (2) preparation of an asbestos management plan for each school; (3) notification of parents and staff of the plan's availability for review; and (4) training of school maintenance and custodial workers. The evaluation study focused on buildings occupied by K-12 students; schools in the target population represent about 80 percent of all 106,000 schools in the U.S.

Managing Asbestos in Place: A Building Owner's Guide to Operations and Maintenance Programs for Asbestos-Containing Materials
(Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC , 1990)
Instructions for building owners on the selection and application of appropriate asbestos control and abatement actions are presented in this guidebook. Chapter 1 offers background information on the asbestos problem.