Asbestos is a natural mineral mined from the earth. Asbestos fibers are often mixed with binding materials for use in products that are strong, fire-resistant, corrosion-resistant and good insulators. In schools, asbestos may be found in insulation (duct, pipe and boiler), cement pipes, tiles (acoustical, floor and ceiling), caulking putty, spackling compounds, fireproofing materials, roofing materials, textured paints and other coating materials, art clay, etc.
According to the EPA, the presence of fully contained and encapsulated asbestos in a school is usually not a health threat. The risk is increased if asbestos-containing materials are damaged, disturbed or deteriorated so that fibers are released into the air. Asbestos fibers are so small and light that they can remain airborne for many hours. Asbestos fibers can be inhaled deep into the lungs, causing disease many years after the exposure has stopped Inhalation can lead to asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Students and staff can be exposed to asbestos fibers during construction and renovation projects and during regular maintenance activities.
Under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) each school district must develop a plan to deal with the asbestos in their schools. The plan must identify where asbestos is located in the school, as well as its condition and how it will be managed. The plan must have a trained person to oversee all asbestos-related activities. School staff and parents/guardians must be notified each year about the status of asbestos-containing materials. Custodial and maintenance staff must be trained on how to work in areas where asbestos-containing materials are found. Periodic inspections must document any changes in the condition of asbestos materials. All abatement and remediation projects must be conducted by licensed personnel. Air or bulk testing samples must be analyzed at an accredited lab. Asbestos remediation projects must be given a final clearance.
In CT, the Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools Regulation (Sections 19a-333-1 through 13) contains additional provision not found in AHERA. Asbestos abatement is prohibited during regular school hours; inspection documentation must be sent to the CT Department of Public Health; test samples must be taken of any newly deteriorated asbestos materials and warning labels must be posted in maintenance areas where asbestos-containing materials are found.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Question: Why is it so important to identify all asbestos-containing materials in schools?
Answer: Preventing the release of asbestos fibers into the air is necessary for protecting the health of school occupants. Knowing where asbestos is in a building is important for daily maintenance and operations and when planning construction and renovation projects. Asbestos-containing materials should never be cut, ripped or sanded. For example, is there is asbestos in a building’s floor tiles, custodial staff must know not to use the buffer/sander to clean the area or else hazardous fibers could be released into the air.
American Lung Association website section on Asbestos:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website section on Asbestos:
CT DPH Asbestos Program:
Asbestos Abatement While School is in Session:
CT DPH Guidance Letter: Circular Letter EHS#2006-33
CT DPH Focus on Asbestos in Schools:
EPA Asbestos in Schools Publications:
EPA IAQ website section on Asbestos: