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Are your children exposed to asbestos at their schools?

How old is your child's school? Is it due for a renovation? Do you know the risks schoolchildren and their teachers face each day due to asbestos exposure?

Residential and commercial buildings constructed in the 1950s, 60s and 70s likely contain fire-retardant materials containing asbestos. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 62 million students and adults attend and work in schools that contain the toxic fibers.

When substances containing asbestos are disturbed, airborne fibers are released. If inhaled, the toxic fibers can lead to deadly illnesses, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses.

What you can do to keep your children safe

While you may feel you are helpless, there are a few things you can do to shield your children -- and other students -- from toxic exposure.

  • Educate yourself: Learn about the dangers present in your area schools. Water damage, remodeling projects and routine maintenance can all release asbestos fibers into the air. While symptoms often take years to appear, recognizing the signs of asbestos diseases can help to provide the proper medical treatment early on.
  • Be the squeaky wheel: The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) requires schools across the nation to protect students and teachers. However, many schools fail to take the necessary steps. Contact your child's school district and administrators to see what has been done.
  • Take action: If your child's school has done nothing, push for action. The EPA created a guide, The ABCs of Asbestos in Schools, which outlines steps you can take as a parent and an advocate for health in schools. Your actions may end up helping generations of students in your area.

If your child suffers from respiratory problems, or you as a teacher do, ask if asbestos exposure may be to blame.

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