When asbestos fibers become airborne, they can become lodged in the lungs and cause serious respiratory diseases as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. In order to protect students and school employees from the hazards of asbestos materials, public school districts and private schools that do not collect tuition are subject to asbestos regulations which are distinct from those imposed upon businesses and other institutions.
Schools are not required to remove asbestos unless it is damaged or likely to be disturbed by renovation or demolition. However, according to the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), there are several other regulations that they are required to comply with. First, school buildings must be inspected for asbestos-containing materials and must have known or suspected ACM re-inspected once every three years. Any person conducting these inspections, or responding to any asbestos hazards that may be found, must be trained and accredited according to the EPA’s Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan. If the school is being demolished or if removal of ACM is necessary for any reason, schools must comply with the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) requirements for asbestos removal. Schools must also appoint a contact to ensure that the school follows all regulations. In addition, schools must provide training to ensure that custodial staff is aware of the hazards of asbestos and observes all necessary precautions when working near ACM. They must also notify parents or guardians, teachers, and employee organizations annually of any asbestos operations that have taken place at the school, or any plans for such operations. Finally, the school must develop an asbestos management plan.
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act has also instituted certain requirements for asbestos management plans for schools. First, a copy of the asbestos management plan must always be kept at the school, and parents, teachers, and employee organizations must be notified yearly about its availability. Parents, teachers, and school employees may request to inspect the asbestos management plan at any time, and it must be provided within five business days after it is requested. The asbestos management plan must include all of the following information: the name and address of the school building; whether the school building contains ACM, and, if so, what type of ACM; the date of the school’s first asbestos inspection; a plan for re-inspection of all known or suspected ACM; a blueprint identifying the location of all known ACM; a description of all actions taken to prevent or reduce asbestos exposure; a copy of all building analyses and the name of the laboratory that did the sampling; the name, address, and telephone number of the contact appointed to make sure that the school fulfills all requirements regarding asbestos materials; and a description of the steps taken to inform teachers, school employees, students, and the parents or guardians of students of any operations involving asbestos materials.
Finally, it is important to note that the regulations described here are those of the Environmental Protect Agency. State or local regulations may be more numerous or more stringent.