When your child gets on the school bus every morning, the last thing you expect is that he or she is being driven to a classroom contaminated with dangerous asbestos. While this may sound surprising to many, the sad reality is that school administrators aren’t necessarily required by law to remove asbestos, even if they know it is there.
In fact, while federal law requires schools to inspect for asbestos (and establish management plans for reducing or eliminating the dangers of possible exposure), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that these schools do not have to remove the asbestos unless it is likely to be disturbed during a renovation/demolition or it has already been severely damaged.
For example, in many instances in which asbestos is found or assumed to be present in a school, federal regulations require administrators to execute an operations, maintenance and repair (O&M) program, which is a plan intended to address three factors:
- Keeping asbestos-containing materials in good condition
- Ensuring the proper clean up of asbestos fibers that have already been released
- Preventing further release of asbestos fibers by controlling/minimizing damage or disturbance to asbestos-containing materials
If you read the three factors listed above, you can see that removal of asbestos is not necessarily required under an O&M program. Indeed, the EPA says that removal is “not usually necessary” unless, as mentioned above, the asbestos is severely damaged or likely to be disturbed during a renovation/demolition.
However, it is important to point out that even if a school finds damaged asbestos, they may only have to repair the damaged area. In many cases, removal may only be required if a repair is not feasible.
Ultimately, though, the rules and regulations governing asbestos in schools are very complex and difficult to navigate by yourself, especially when you consider that different laws may apply depending on your specific circumstances – not to mention that local authorities may create their own standards. Given this complexity, you should always contact an experienced attorney if you have any questions or concerns following possible asbestos exposure.