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Old school buildings may expose teachers to asbestos

The nation’s teachers play a huge part in shaping future generations. They work hard to transform their classrooms into safe places for students to study, learn, socialize and mature. They shouldn’t have to worry that those classrooms could be full of deadly carcinogens.

Unfortunately, many of the nation’s schools have asbestos—which is known to cause cancer. But even though the school districts and their administrators understand the risks, many of them do nothing. This is because cleaning asbestos from an older school can be a long, unpredictable and expensive process.

Teachers and staff may be at risk

According to EPA estimates, most of the nation’s schools use asbestos for insulation and in their building materials. Asbestos could be in your school’s floors, ceiling tiles and fireproofing. In fact, there’s so much asbestos in schools that the National Center for Health Statistics has ranked teachers among the professions most likely to contract the lethal cancer known as mesothelioma.

Even so, the EPA claims the asbestos in your school shouldn’t cause problems so long as the material isn’t damaged and the building is not scheduled for renovation or remodeling. It also demands that schools comply to the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), which includes:

  • Inspections every three years
  • Asbestos management plans
  • Yearly notifications to parent, teacher and employee organizations
  • A designated contact person
  • Routine updates on known or suspected asbestos materials
  • Asbestos-awareness training for custodial staff

As a teacher, you want to make sure your school meets or exceeds these standards. You may also want to pay attention to the contractors who work in the building. The New Orleans Advocate recently reported on a job that contractors bungled in the Recovery School District. While they were trying to cleanup asbestos, they released it into the air. Then they delayed their reports of the release.

There is no safe level of asbestos exposure

When you spend your life tending to the safety, well-being and growth of other human beings, you might like to think that other people give your well-being the same consideration. But this isn’t always the case. Teachers may want to check on asbestos levels in their schools. Sometimes you need to be your own first line of defense.

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