United States
Environmental Protection
August 2003
         Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics
         The ABCs
         Of Asbestos
         In Schools
   Today's Lesson:


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•  When is asbestos a problem?
•  What should my school and school
   district be doing about asbestos?
•  What can I do to help?
   The Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) is releasing this
updated document in conjunction with
the National  Parent Teacher Association
(PTA) and the National Education
Association (NBA) due to an ongoing
concern about asbestos in elementary
and secondary schools nationwide.
   This pamphlet can help parents and
teachers answer questions and learn the
facts about asbestos in schools. It also
outlines the responsibilities of school
boards and other school officials to
protect school children and employees
from possible exposure to asbestos.

The  Asbestos  Issue
           sbestos fibers can
           cause serious health
           problems. If inhaled,
           they can disrupt the
normal functioning of the lungs.
Three specific diseases -
asbestosis, lung cancer, and
another cancer known as
mesothelioma- have been linked
to asbestos exposure. These
diseases do not develop immedi-
ately after inhalation of asbestos
fibers; it may be 20 years or
more before symptoms appear.
   In general, as with cigarette
smoking, the more asbestos
fibers a person inhales, the
greater the risk of developing an
asbestos-related disease. The
most severe health problems
from asbestos exposure  have
been experienced by some
workers who held jobs in
industries such as shipbuilding,
where they were  exposed to
very high levels of asbestos in
the air. These employees
worked directly with asbestos
materials on a regular basis as a
part of their jobs. Much uncer-
tainty surrounds the risk from
exposure to low levels of
asbestos fibers.
   Nevertheless, the risk of
school children being exposed to
even low levels of asbestos is a
concern. Acting on this concern,
Congress passed the Asbestos
Hazard Emergency Response
Act (AHERA) in 1986 to protect
school children and school
employees from exposure to
asbestos in school buildings. This
pamphlet describes key parts of
these federal asbestos require-
ments for schools.

What  Exactly  Is

          sbestos is a mineral
          found in certain types of
          rock formations. When
          mined and processed, it
takes the form of very small fibers
which are usually invisible to the
naked eye. A typical asbestos  fiber is
1,200 times smaller than a strand of
human hair. These individual fibers
are generally mixed with a material
which binds them together so  that
they can be used in many different
products. Because the fibers are so
small and light, they can remain in the
air for many hours if they are
released from asbestos-containing
material. This increases the chance
that someone will inhale them.
   Asbestos became a popular
commercial product because it is
strong, won't burn, resists corrosion,
and insulates well. Its commercial use
in the United States began in the
early 1900s, when it was used as
insulation in steam engines. Since
then asbestos has been used to
create about 3,000 different products,
including insulation and fireproofing.
The peak years of asbestos use in
schools were from World War II until
the 1970s.
Where  Is

Asbestos  Likely

to  Be  Found?
           PA estimates that there
           are asbestos-containing
           materials in most of the
           nation's primary,
secondary and charter schools.
Asbestos is most commonly used in
schools as insulation and in building
materials. It has also been used in
floor and ceiling tile, cement asbes-
tos pipe, corrugated paper pipe
wrap, acoustical and decorative
insulation, pipe and boiler insulation,
and spray-applied fireproofing. The
fluffy white substance you may find
above a dropped ceiling, for ex-
ample, is one type of spray-applied
material. The amount of asbestos in

these products varies widely, from
less than 1 to 100 percent, depending
on the use. Pipe and boiler insulation
typically contains more asbestos
than other building materials. The
precise amount of asbestos in a
product cannot always be deter-
mined from labels - since most
products used in the past were not
labeled - or by asking the manufac-
turer. Instead, positive identification
of asbestos requires analysis of
samples by a qualified laboratory.
When  Is

Asbestos  a

           ntact and undisturbed
           asbestos materials
           generally do not pose a
           health risk. Asbestos
materials, however, can become
hazardous when, due to damage or
deterioration over time, they release
fibers. If the fibers are inhaled, they
can lead to health problems.
   The potential for an asbestos-
containing material to release fibers
depends primarily on its condition. If
the material, when dry, can be
crumbled by hand pressure - a
condition known as "friable" - it is
more likely to release fibers, particu-
larly when damaged. The fluffy
spray-applied asbestos fireproofmg
material is generally considered
"friable." Pipe and boiler insulation
materials can also be "friable,"
but they often are enclosed in a
Continued on p. 6

What  Is the Government  Doing
about Asbestos  In Schools?
           he federal
           government has
           been regulating
           asbestos for a
 number of years. Progress is
 being made to limit the uses of
 asbestos and to identify
 substitute materials.
   AHERA required EPA to
 develop regulations creating a
 comprehensive framework for
 dealing with asbestos in public
 and nonprofit private elemen-
 tary and secondary schools.
 The regulations were published
 on October 30, 1987.
   The AHERA schools rule
 requires all public school
 districts and private schools,
 known as local education
 agencies or LEAs, to  inspect
 all school buildings for both
 friable and nonfriable asbes-
 tos; to develop plans to
 manage asbestos in schools;
 and to carry out the plans in a
 timely fashion. The rule also
 provides an opportunity for
 parents, teachers, and other
school employees to become
familiar with and involved
in their school's asbestos
management program. School
officials are required to notify
parent, teacher and employee
groups about asbestos-related
   EPA also has established an
asbestos-in-schools assistance
program. Through its Head-
quarters office in Washington,
B.C., and ten Regional offices,
EPA provides direct technical
assistance to help thousands of
school officials and workers
understand asbestos issues.
EPA is updating older asbestos
publications and plans to
release new materials as they
become available. For more
information contact your
regional asbestos coordinator,
the TSCA Hotline at (202) 554-
1404 or the asbestos hotline at
(800)471-7127. You can also
visit our website at http://
asbestos in schools.html.


protective casing which prevents
fiber release unless the casing is
damaged. Some materials, which
are considered "nonfriable," such
as vinyl-asbestos floor tile, can
also release fibers when sanded,
sawed or otherwise disturbed.
Materials such as asbestos cement
pipe can release asbestos fibers if
they are broken or crushed when
buildings are demolished, reno-
vated or repaired.
What Are  the  Proper  Methods for
Managing  Asbestos?
            ost asbestos-contain-
            ing material can be
            properly managed
            where it is. In fact,
asbestos that is managed properly
and maintained in good condition
appears to pose relatively little
risk to students and school employ-
ees. Accordingly, the AHERA
schools rule rarely requires the
removal of asbestos materials.
   Proper asbestos management
begins with a comprehensive
inspection by qualified, trained and
experienced inspectors, accredited
through an EPA or state-approved
training course. Inspecting the
condition of asbestos materials -
initially with AHERA-accredited
inspectors and at least semi-
annually with trained custodial or
maintenance staff- is extremely
important so that changes in the
material's condition, such as
damage or deterioration, can be
detected and corrected before the
condition worsens. Sometimes
normal school or maintenance
activities can damage asbestos
material and cause fiber release,
particularly if the material is
"friable." A thorough initial
inspection and regular surveillance
can prevent  accidental exposure to
high levels of asbestos fibers.
   The methods (see page 7), in
AHERA terminology, are asbestos
"response actions." The last three
methods of response actions -
encapsulation, enclosure, and
removal - and sometimes the
second method - repair - must be
done by accredited asbestos
   The final response action,
asbestos removal,  is generally
necessary only when the material
damage is extensive and severe,

How To  Respond?
Proper methods for dealing
with asbestos are:

•   Developing and carrying out a special
   maintenance plan to insure that asbestos-
   containing materials are kept in good
   condition. This is the most common
   method when the materials are in good
   condition at the time of initial inspection.
•   Repairing damaged pipe or boiler covering,
   which is known as thermal system insulation.
•   Spraying the material with a sealant to
   prevent fiber release - a process called
•   Placing a barrier around the materials,
   which is  known as an enclosure.
•   Removing asbestos - under special
and other actions will not control
fiber release. Although the
AHERA schools rule does not
prohibit schools from removing
any asbestos materials, removal
decisions should not be made
lightly. An ill-conceived or poorly
conducted removal can actually
increase rather than eliminate
risk. Consequently, all school
removal projects must be de-
signed, supervised, and conducted
by accredited professionals and
should be performed in accor-
dance with state-of-the-art
procedures. In addition, schools
may wish to hire an experienced
and qualified project monitor to

oversee the asbestos contractor's
work to make sure the removal is
conducted safely.
   Only an AHERA-accredited
management planner - an asbestos
professional with proper training,
qualifications, and experience - is
authorized to advise school officials
on which response action is appro-
priate for a particular situation. The
final selection of the proper method
is up to school officials after they
receive the advice of the school's
accredited management planner.
What  Should  My School  &
School  District  Be  Doing?
            schools rule, each
            local education
            agency (LEA, which
means a school district or private
school) must take the following
asbestos-related actions:

1  Designate and train a person to
oversee asbestos-related activities
in the school system.

2 Inspect every school building for
"friable" and "nonfiiable" asbestos-
containing building materials.

3 Prepare a management plan for
managing asbestos and controlling
exposure in each school.

4 Consult with accredited inspec-
tion and management professionals
to identify and carry out whatever
asbestos actions are necessary and
appropriate to protect health and
the environment. These actions or
methods must be documented in
the management plan.

5 Notify the public about the
asbestos inspection and the
availability of the asbestos man-
agement plan for review.

6 Use only properly accredited
persons to conduct inspections, to
develop the asbestos management
plan, and to carry out the appropri-
ate response  actions.

7 Keep records of all asbestos
related activities in the plan and make
them available for public review.

  What Does the LEA
  Designated  Person Do?
      School officials may choose a
  consultant or one of their own
  employees to oversee their asbes-
  tos program. This designated
  person must meet certain training
  requirements, and serves as the
  single point of contact for public
  information about asbestos-related
  activities in the LEA. He or she is
  responsible for:
  •   Ensuring that initial asbestos
      inspections,  re-inspections
      every three years, and semi-
      annual surveillance activities
      are conducted properly by
      qualified personnel.
  •   Including results of the inspec-
      tion in the management plan.
      The plan must identify all
      asbestos-containing building
      materials found in schools and
      recommend actions for dealing
      with asbestos hazards.
  •   Preparing a management plan
      (for schools built after October
      12,1988) for submission to the
      appropriate  state Agency prior
      to the school being used as a
      school building. The manage-
      ment plan should be maintained
      and updated with records of
      response actions,  periodic
surveillance of asbestos
containing materials (ACM) and
all re-inspections.
Making sure that custodial and
maintenance workers receive
required safety training and
information about the location
of asbestos-containing
materials in their school.
Warning labels must be posted
in all routine maintenance
areas, such as boiler rooms,
where asbestos-containing
building materials are found.
Ensuring that response actions
specified in the management plan
are carried out according to the
plan's timetables. The regula-
tions require that all LEAs were
to begin to carry out their
management plans no later than
July 9,1989.
Seeing that all asbestos records
required by the regulations are
accurately maintained.
Informing all teacher, parent
and employee organizations at
least once a year about the
asbestos activities in each
school and about the availabil-
ity of the management plan for
their review.


What Can  I  Do  to Help?
           s a parent, teacher,
           student, service
           worker or other
          | school employee,
the most important thing you can
do first is to learn about your
school's asbestos activities. As
you do so, remember that the
mere presence of asbestos in a
school doesn 't necessarily
mean that the health of its
occupants  is endangered.
Again, asbestos that is managed
properly and maintained in good
condition poses relatively little
risk. Federal regulations do not
require the removal of all friable
asbestos from schools until the
building is demolished. In fact,
during the life of the building,
other methods of dealing with
the material are often preferable
to removal.
  In those cases when
removing asbestos is deter-
mined to be the appropriate
decision, the work must be
done under strict controls by
trained, qualified and experi-
enced asbestos professionals
who are properly accredited
under AHERA.

Step  One:

   Your first step is to make sure
your school has prepared an
asbestos management plan as
required by AHERA. By becom-
ing familiar with this plan, you
will know if asbestos materials
are in the school, what plans the
school has for managing this
asbestos, and when these
activities are scheduled to occur.


Step  Two:


   There are several simple
things you can do to minimize
your exposure to asbestos. The
most important one is to find
out which materials in your
school contain asbestos; you
should be able to get this
information from your LEA's
designated person or from the
school's management plan.
   Once you know where
asbestos is, use special care
to insure that any day-to-day
activities, such as repair or
maintenance work, do not
disturb the  material. In fact,
special training is required to
participate  in any maintenance
activities which might disturb
asbestos. In schools, asbestos-
containing  materials can also
be damaged by student activi-
ties. For example, an asbestos
ceiling in a gym may be dis-
turbed if basketballs or other
objects are thrown up against it.
Students and others who use the
gym should be warned to avoid
such activities.
         PLAN FOR
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Who Is
for  Making
AH ERA Work?
          11 of us are respon-
          sible. Making the
          AHERA schools rule
          work to protect the
nation's school children and
employees is a joint responsibility
of the LEA and its officials, school
employees, parents, students,
federal and state governments,
and asbestos control professionals.
   EPA conducts compliance
inspections of a sample of schools
each year to make sure they are
obeying the law. The Agency is
responsible for insuring that schools
comply with AHERA and it will
investigate reported violations. Since
the AHERA schools rule is inten-
tionally designed to involve parent,
teacher and other school employee
organizations, it is impor-
tant thatjoM work with your school
to make sure that its asbestos
program is properly conducted.
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Where Can  I Get

More Information?

           nder AHERA,
           citizens have the
           opportunity to be-
           come informed about
asbestos activities in their schools.
If you have a question or concern
about those activities, you should
first contact your LEA designated
person. This person knows the
most about the asbestos situation
in your school. When you find out
who this person is, ask him or her
what steps your school has taken,
and will continue to take, to meet
the requirements of the AHERA
schools rule.
   The LEA designated person
also can tell you which agency in
your state government is respon-
sible for state AHERA activities.
The same agency usually is
responsible for reviewing the
LEA's asbestos management plan.
This LEA designated person also
should be aware of any local
asbestos control requirements.
   State AHERA designees also
are a good source of information.
These officials can help you better
understand the AHERA schools rule
and can answer questions about
your school's asbestos activities.
   You also can contact your EPA
regional office. There are ten EPA
regional offices around the country,
and each one has a Regional
Asbestos Coordinator (RAC).
Their addresses and phone num-
bers are listed at the end of this
pamphlet. School employees cannot
be penalized for contacting EPA or
the appropriate state agency to
discuss their concerns about  a
school's asbestos program.
   Local, state, and national parent
and teacher organizations are other
good sources of information about
asbestos in schools. Many of these

groups worked with EPA in devel-
oping the AHERA schools rule, and
some have started their own
educational efforts to improve
understanding of the AHERA
requirements and proper asbestos
control practices. The addresses and
phone numbers of the national
offices of PTA and NEA are listed
at the end of this pamphlet.
   The EPA Toxic Substances
Control Act (TSCA) Hotline is
available to answer your questions
about the new AHERA regulations
and about asbestos in general. You
can obtain a variety of information
by calling the TSCA Hotline at (202)
554-1404 or the asbestos hotline at
(800) 471-7127. You can also visit
our website at
asbestos/asbestos_in_schools .html.
   Finally, EPA has an asbestos
ombudsman to help citizens with
asbestos-in-schools issues, ques-
tions, and complaints. This office
can be reached through a toll-free
number at  (800) 368-5888.

EPA  Regions
EPA Region  1
   One Congress Street
   Suite 1100
   Boston, MA 02114
   (Connecticut, Maine, Massa-
   chusetts, New Hampshire,
   Rhode Island, and Vermont)
EPA Region 2
   Air Branch
   290 Broadway, 21st Floor
   New York, NY 10007
   (New Jersey, New York,
   Puerto Rico, and Virgin

EPA Region 3
   1650 Arch Street
   Philadelphia, PA 19103
   (Delaware, District of Colum-
   bia, Maryland, Pennsylvania,
   Virginia, and West Virginia)
EPA Region 4
   46 IForsyth Street, SW
   Atlanta, GA 30303
   (Alabama, Florida, Georgia,
   Kentucky, Mississippi, North
   Carolina, South Carolina, and

EPA Region 5
   77 West Jackson Blvd.
   Chicago, IL 60604
   (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,
   Minnesota, Ohio, and Wis-

EPA Region 6
   1445 Ross Avenue
   Dallas, TX 75202
   (Arkansas,  Louisiana, New
   Mexico, Oklahoma, and

EPA Region 7
   901  N. 5th  Street
   Kansas City, KS 66101
   (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and

EPA Region 8
   999  - 18th Street, Suite 300
   Denver, CO 80202
   (Colorado, Montana, North
   Dakota, South Dakota, Utah,
   and Wyoming)

EPA Region 9
   75 Hawthorne Street
   San  Francisco, CA 94105
   (Arizona, California, Hawaii,
   Nevada, American Samoa,
   and  Guam)
EPA Region 10
   1200 Sixth Street
   Seattle, WA 98101
   (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and

National Parent Teacher

National PTA
330 N. Wabash Avenue
Suite 2100
Chicago, IL 60611

National PTA
DC Office
1090 Vermont Avenue, NW
Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20005

Hotline: 1-888-425-5537
National Education

1201 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 2003 6
Division of Government Relations
Office of General Counsel

         Prepared by the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The National
Education Association

The National Parent
Teacher Association



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