Mesothelioma is a worldwide problem as asbestos was widely used in building material both in the United States and throughout Europe for decades until the risks associated with exposure became known. Recently, the death of a school teacher in the United Kingdom brought the issue of asbestos-exposure in schools back into the headlines. The teacher, a 63-year-old from South Hampton, was believed to be the first case of mesothelioma in the local area. However, there is concern that many schools both in the UK and in the United States are older buildings were children, teachers and administrators could all be exposed to asbestos fibers.
Our mesothelioma plaintiff lawyers know that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has passed strict requirements to prevent exposure to asbestos among school children. Schools are required to comply with the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) and all public and private schools, including charters and religious schools, have to inspect their schools regularly for materials with asbestos and take action to reduce asbestos hazards. Unfortunately, the average age of schools in the U.S. is around 42 years old and about half of all schools in the country were built between 1950 and 1969, which were peak years for the use of asbestos. Even with federal regulations, schools may still have unresolved asbestos issues and kids, teachers and administrators could be in danger of exposure.
Mesothelioma Risks for School Teachers
According to the Mirror News, the UK teacher who lost her life due to asbestos exposure breathed in deadly asbestos when she pinned up student work on the walls in her classroom. The asbestos was also released and the teacher breathed it in when pupils in the classroom damaged the walls.
The walls in her classroom were not the only ones to contain asbestos fibers. In the UK, a study revealed that around 75 percent of schools exposed kids and staff to asbestos. Things aren’t much better in the United States either, with the National Center for Health Statistics listing elementary school teaching as an occupation that carries a high risk of asbestos exposure leading to the development of mesothelioma. The NCHS attributes around 2.1 percent of deaths among elementary school educators to mesothelioma caused by asbestos.
Things used to be much worse in the United States before the EPA took action to force schools to deal with the asbestos issue head-on. In 1980, for example, the EPA’s risk estimates indicated that in excess of 8,500 schools in the United States had friable asbestos. More than 250,000 teachers and three million students within these schools were exposed to dangerous asbestos concentrations and the EPA estimated that exposure to asbestos could cause as many as 1,000 premature deaths over a 30-year period of time.
This prompted the EPA to impose mandatory investigatory requirements in 1982 and prompted congress to pass the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Act in 1984. The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) further clarified the school’s responsibilities and mandated inspection and abatement, which have helped to reduce the exposure rate.
Despite best efforts, however, school-teachers and kids remain at risk in schools with old building materials as even trace amounts of asbestos could be dangerous. Abatement efforts need to continue and schools should make sure to comply with all investigation and planning requirements to protect their teachers and students from harm.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
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Sequester Hits Mesothelioma Research, Dec. 10, 2013, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog