Asbestos Found in Nevada Charter Schools

Last week, the Associated Press reported that several Nevada charter schools would be just the latest to inspect for asbestos materials. According to the AP article, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that “12 Nevada charter schools are taking steps to comply with federal law regarding inspection and management of asbestos-containing materials.” Asbestos materials continue to be found in schools today, as many of these older structures were built during the height of asbestos use in this country. This means that asbestos materials may be found in a number of locations throughout these buildings, including the flooring, roofing, or insulation materials. Furthermore, as these schools continue to age and undergo renovation, the risk of exposing these dangerous materials increases. To keep children safe, the EPA has instituted a number of regulations. This includes the 1986 passage of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), which is a provision of the Toxic Substances Control Act. The article explains that “All schools, including charter schools, are required under federal law to conduct asbestos inspections and have asbestos management plans.” The AP reports that two of the 12 Nevada schools which are beginning to comply more fully with federal regulations “were found to have asbestos materials.” The news source explains that asbestos exposure occurring when the material “becomes airborne can lead to lung cancer and other diseases.” One of those “other diseases” is a cancer known as mesothelioma. This cancer attacks patients after a long latency period of 20 to 50 years and is the result of unspecified asbestos exposure amounts. However, medical professionals agree that no amount of asbestos exposure is safe, particularly to children. The AP article goes on to explain that “Schools found to have asbestos must do periodic surveillance and re-inspections, train maintenance and custodial staff and keep records documenting those efforts in management plans.” The EPA explains that although the complete removal of asbestos is an option for these schools, “many schools and local education agencies have chosen to manage some [a]sbestos-containing building material in place.” Though lethal when disturbed, the government agency explains that when left intact, “undisturbed asbestos-containing materials generally do not pose a health risk.” Leaving these materials in place safely is done by encapsulating the material in a sealant which binds the fibers together or coats them so they are not released. Another method of leaving asbestos materials in place and keeping them from shedding their fibers is through enclosing the materials with a protective wrap or jacket. This AP article did not mention which method the Nevada charter schools might possibly use to address the asbestos materials found in these buildings, though it will likely depend on the condition of the materials, location, age, and cost.
  • Associated Press Staff. (October 31, 2011) “Nevada charter schools to inspect for asbestos.” Retrieved on November 7, 2011 from MSNBC.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Asbestos in Your Home
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