It can be difficult to know when asbestos is present in a particular material or building. If in doubt, it is best to assume that asbestos is present. We recently wrote about the frequent presence of asbestos in schools throughout the country.
The prevalence of asbestos in schools is one reason why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires certain custodians and maintenance workers at schools to receive at least 16 hours of asbestos training if they will undertake any activities that could expose themselves or others to asbestos.
Asbestos, if left undisturbed, generally does not pose a health risk. This is not true of friable asbestos, however, meaning that it is crumbling or loose. A common example is sprayed-on asbestos insulation, which was used frequently in the 20th century.
Many school building materials contain asbestos. Sanding, drilling, remodeling, repairing and many other actions can disturb asbestos and release fibers into the air.
Accredited professionals needed for removal
While there is no federal law that requires homeowners to use accredited asbestos professionals when working with asbestos, this is not true of schools and other public buildings. If asbestos is suspected in a school and may be disturbed by maintenance or repair, then the school must use a trained professional. The professionals must be trained in accordance with the EPA Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan (MAP). Some states have also enacted laws regarding handling asbestos in schools and public buildings.
Proper precautions are necessary
While undisturbed asbestos poses little risk for children, it is important that school administrators and maintenance workers understand the risks associated with asbestos exposure. Failing to properly follow asbestos abatement procedures can lead to unnecessary and avoidable risk.