Asbestos in Schools: What You Need to Know (2024)

Decades ago, asbestos was a common building material used in the United States. Today, people can still find it in ceiling tiles, insulation, floor tiles, and other building materials. While asbestos exposure is known to cause severe health problems, including mesothelioma, federal law does not require schools to remove asbestos-containing products. If you are wondering about asbestos in schools, there is vital information that you need to know.

Asbestos in Schools

History of Asbestos in Schools: What You Need to Know

At one point, asbestos was considered a versatile and helpful material. Its fire-resistant and insulating properties were seen as beneficial in a wide array of applications. Unfortunately, knowledge of asbestos-related dangers was not widespread until the 1970s.

In the 1970s, the dangers of asbestos became evident around the country. A decade later, the federal government banned its use in new construction materials, leaving schools to decide whether to remove the old materials. During the 1980s, the government created an emergency response act, which only required schools to develop plans for managing asbestos and conduct periodic inspections.

Some schools chose to remove asbestos-containing materials, but many did not. If you are wondering about asbestos in a school near you, there is a process that you can follow to get the information you need.

Finding Out If a School You Know Has Asbestos

The government requires schools built before the 1980s to have an Asbestos Management Plan (AMP). These plans should detail the presence of any known asbestos-containing materials in the school. It also outlines the plan for managing these materials so that they do not affect students, staff, and anyone in physical contact with the school.

If you are interested in finding out if a school has asbestos, you can request a copy of the AMP from the school. Try contacting the principal or the school district office if you cannot find who to contact. Upon receiving the plan, you should find the location and condition of any asbestos in the school.

Protecting Your Child If There’s Asbestos in Their School

It may help to know that intact and undisturbed asbestos poses minimal risk to you or anyone else. However, dealing with damaged or friable asbestos-containing materials, like worn popcorn ceilings, can cause harmful fibers to be released into the air. This situation would be a hazard.

When looking to protect your child, you should:

  • Be informed. It is important to know the location of asbestos and how the school manages it. When raising awareness with your child’s teacher or principal about potential hazards, knowing if the asbestos-containing materials are damaged or fragile is good.
  • Encourage open and polite communication. If you want to talk to your child’s school about any ongoing or new maintenance or renovation projects that could disturb asbestos-containing materials, it is wise to express your concerns in an environment that promotes open and polite communication.
  • Trust experts. If you have concerns, do not hesitate to contact the school administration or government agencies for guidance. Remember, experts on these matters should know how to handle the situation and can advise you on your level of concern.

While the presence of asbestos in schools can feel concerning, knowing its location and management plan may provide some relief. By understanding the regulations and risks as well as knowing how to find information on asbestos in a school, you can take steps to protect the health of the people you care about. Remembering that intact and undisturbed asbestos poses minimal risk is important.

Dangers of Asbestos Exposure

A primary danger of asbestos exposure is mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that attacks the mesothelium. The mesothelium is a thin tissue layer that lines vital organs, like your lungs and abdomen. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, but symptoms can take years to develop.


Q: What Do You Need to Know About Asbestos?

A: It is good to know what asbestos is, its dangers, its relationship to mesothelioma and other ailments, and its safety measures.

Asbestos is a conglomerate of fibrous minerals that some occupations once used to strengthen and fireproof materials. If inhaled asbestos gets trapped in the body, it can cause diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. While plenty of other countries have banned asbestos, it has not been banned in the United States despite its complicated history. Removal can be done with a professional abatement company.

Q: What Is Important Information to Know About Asbestos?

A: Important information to know about asbestos is that exposure increases the risk of lung disease. Smoking increases the risk that asbestos can pose for lung disease and other ailments, such as mesothelioma. Although these risks exist, the disease symptoms can take years to develop after exposure.

Additionally, asbestos-related conditions are difficult to identify, and a thorough medical history examination can help one discover the possibility of asbestos exposure.

Q: What Materials Are Asbestos-Containing in Schools?

A: Until the 1980s, asbestos-containing materials were in many schools, classrooms, school corridors, teacher lounges, auditoriums, and other high-traffic locations. Asbestos-containing materials include:

  • Ceiling tiles
  • Cement sheets
  • Pipe wrap insulation
  • Textured paint
  • Popcorn ceilings
  • Ductwork for cooling and heating systems
  • Wallboard
  • Boiler insulation
  • Vinyl flooring

Later in the decade, the government passed the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), which was meant to protect students and teachers from asbestos exposure. However, the law rarely requires anyone to remove materials that contain asbestos.

Q: What Are the Guidelines for Asbestos Exposure?

A: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has asbestos exposure guidelines that protect workers from asbestos hazards. The Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) exists for the amount of asbestos that an employee can be subject to over thirty minutes. Workplaces should have assessments to clarify that they abide by the PEL standards if asbestos is apparent. Monitors are also necessary to detect the asbestos level and determine its proximity to the PEL.

You Can Stay Informed About Asbestos Rules and Regulations

Early detection and proper management are vital in mitigating asbestos risks in schools. Most likely, any school you encounter will already have a plan for dealing with asbestos-containing materials. Working with schools to keep the plan current and monitor asbestos-containing materials can ensure a safe learning environment for everyone involved.

If you have a concern about asbestos risk in a school near you, contact the proper administration for more information. If you believe that a school has negligently exposed your child to asbestos, contact Wallace & Graham today.