Safely Managing or Removing Asbestos in K-12 Schools
Decades since it was identified as a hazardous air pollutant and a carcinogen, asbestos-containing materials can be found in as many as two-thirds of U.S. schools, according to some estimates.
As a commonly used material for flooring, walls, ceilings and hot water and steam pipes until the 1980s, asbestos is “ubiquitous” in older schools across the country, reports say, and as buildings age or undergo renovations, degradation of these materials increases the risk of exposure to students, faculty, and staff
While decades of inaction left remediation efforts stalled in many schools, according to a 2015 report, news reports and parents’ concerns have brought new urgency to the assessment and mitigation of this hazard.
In 2018, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General took the agency’s efforts to task in an audit that concluded that more needed to be done to ensure the safety of the millions of teachers and students at risk of exposure to asbestos fibers released into the air.
HVAC Repair and Disturbance of Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools
The replacement of older HVAC systems with more robust systems (to help reduce the threat of COVID-19 transmission) has contributed to the deterioration of aging asbestos tiles and other materials in many schools, which can release dangerous fibers into the air as they dry out and begin to delaminate from their substrate.
Unlike many other countries, some manufactured asbestos products are still legal for use in the U.S. and occasionally asbestos-containing products can find their way into newer or renovated school buildings, but the greatest risk is to buildings constructed between 1946 and 1972, according to the EPA inspector general’s report.
Among the health impacts, exposure to asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma – a potentially fatal cancer that can develop even at relatively low levels of exposure – and scarring of the lungs and lung linings, among other conditions. The risk for children grows as the time of exposure increases and is exacerbated by the fact that children are “more active, breathe at higher rates and through the mouth, and spend more time closer to the floor where fibers can accumulate,” the IG report notes.
For these reasons and more, the mitigation of asbestos in schools is increasingly a priority among local educational agencies.
Reliable Assessment for Asbestos Management and Mitigation
Managing and mitigating the significant health risks associated with asbestos exposure requires careful assessment by, trained, qualified and certified technicians to determine the quantity and condition of asbestos-containing materials.
Depending on their condition, asbestos tiles can be sealed with epoxy (floor tiles) or vinyl paint (ceiling tiles) – or completely removed and replaced. Management of asbestos-containing materials during renovations or repairs is critical to ensure that asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are not disturbed during these activities, which can release asbestos particles and fibers into the air, where they can be inhaled. Management begins with an inspection to identify ACMs and the preparation of plans and response actions to manage ACMs and prevent or reduce hazards.
Reinspection of asbestos-containing materials every three years is required under the 1986 Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), which applies to all public school districts and nonprofit private K-12 schools.
Certified, Reliable and Professional Asbestos Management Help
At Omega Environmental, we have decades of experience in the assessment and remediation of asbestos for clients in both private and government sectors. We have developed numerous site-specific asbestos O&M plans for the safe management and removal of asbestos from high-rises, industrial facilities, entertainment venues, universities, and schools, among other facilities.
Our team includes both California Certified Asbestos Consultants (CACs), Certified Site Surveillance Technicians, and EPA-certified trainers and asbestos exposure mitigation specialists with deep expertise in the safe, cost-effective, and thorough management of building asbestos.
Call us or click on the link below to learn more about our services for asbestos assessment, management and remediation.