On August 11, 1984, President Ronald Reagan granted $600 million in federal money to schools that demonstrated a severe asbestos hazard and need for financial assistance under the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Act (ASHAA). During summer of the next year, 340 private and public schools took advantage of this program for 417 individual projects, resulting in a $45 million expenditure for the EPA. In 1986, another 295 schools required $47 million.
In the text of the ASHAA, Congress finds that asbestos has been conclusively shown to cause fatal diseases and that children in particular are vulnerable to exposure. The Act goes on to recognize that there is no level of asbestos exposure that can be considered “safe.” Additionally, asbestos is known to have been used in the construction of school buildings between 1946 and 1972, meaning that the presence of airborne asbestos in these buildings is not only possible, it is an active threat to children’s health. The Act finds that there is, as of yet, no systematic program to remedy this problem and states that the formation of such a program is required.
ASHAA is designed to establish a program to asses and reduce the risk posed by asbestos in schools, as well as provide financial and scientific assistance to schools, as well as the state and local agencies responsible for them. Additionally, the Act insures that educational workers will not be penalized for bringing possible asbestos exposure risks to the EPA’s attention
Asbestos Hazard Abatement Program
The duties of the abatement program include compiling medical and scientific information on the hazards of asbestos, distributing such information, and reviewing applications from schools asking for federal financial assistance in complying with asbestos regulations. Applications must include the “nature and extent of the asbestos problem for which assistance is sought,” how much asbestos is in the materials, the methods of removal, the amount of financial assistance required, and a justification for that amount. The priority with which the applications will be reviewed depends upon the likelihood of release of asbestos fibers due to the condition of the asbestos-containing materials or geographic factors and the possibility of success by the proposed methods of removal.
Other Important Sections
ASHAA also establishes administrative provisions for establishing procedures that will put the Act into effect, as well as the need for annual reports and authorization for the government to collect on repayments for the loans. The Act also points out that it will not affect the rights of anyone seeking legal compensation for asbestos exposure. Finally, the Act creates a trust fund to provide for schools seeking federal financial assistance.