When schools and churches were built prior to 1980, asbestos-based construction materials were the first line of defense in protecting those inside from the biggest threats to their safety and comfort. This miracle mineral was not only fireproof, but could strengthen cement and insulate buildings against icy Midwestern weather.
Little did those contractors know that many of the children who played, learned and worshipped in these buildings would one day battle mesothelioma and other lung cancers when they grew up due to asbestos fibers that escaped into the air.
Today, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) through the Environmental Protection Agency requires all public and private schools in St. Louis, including those held in churches, to inspect their buildings for asbestos every three years and take steps to perform asbestos removal if necessary. But that doesn?t mean all schools and churches follow the guidelines?and their negligence can be dangerous to your child.?
Identifying asbestos symptoms in your child
In most cases, the effects of asbestos exposure?persistent cough, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, chest tightness, and lung cancers?don?t show up for decades. However, the U.K.?s Committee on Carcinogenicity found that a child who is initially exposed to asbestos in kindergarten is five times more likely to develop mesothelioma in adulthood than if they were first exposed at age 30.
Children most at risk of being affected by asbestos symptoms in the present are those who live with asthma, allergies and other breathing problems. Because asbestos is an indoor pollutant, it can trigger any of the following conditions in your child:
- Chronic cough
- Throat and chest irritation
- Breathing problems
- Acute bronchitis
If you notice your child is suffering from any of these asbestos symptoms during the school year, talk to their pediatrician about your concerns to determine if pollutants in the air may be the culprit.
What to do if you suspect asbestos in schools or churches your family members attend
Under the AHERA, public, private and church-run schools must have an asbestos management plan in place that mandates the building is inspected for the pollutant every three years by an environmental inspector and that appropriate asbestos removal or encapsulation actions are taken if the hazard is uncovered.
If you request a copy of the plan and asbestos-related records, your school must share them within five days of your ask. As you review, be sure to look out for the last inspection date, if any asbestos was found, and what steps were taken to mitigate your child?s risk. Questions about the plan should be directed to the school administrator designated with overseeing asbestos-related activities, but if you still have concerns, you may need to contact the EPA to ensure your school?s actions followed federal guidelines.
How to safely check for and remove asbestos
All asbestos inspections, and especially asbestos removal or encapsulation, should be performed only when children and staff are off school in order to minimize their risk of exposure?such as during the winter break, spring break or summer.?
In the majority of cases, isolation, encapsulation and enclosure of an asbestos risk are the foundations of an asbestos management plan. For instance, an asbestos removal company may apply a sealant over a surface area to prevent asbestos fibers from escaping into the air or position a physical barrier between the area where asbestos is present and the classroom or cafeteria.
While complete removal is the only permanent solution for preventing exposure, few schools are required by the EPA to perform it due to high costs and the risk of increased exposure.
If you have additional questions about your child?s risk of asbestos in their school or your family?s church
reach out to the experts at ABC Contracting. We can help you determine if your concerns are reasonable, and if needed, contact school administrators about partnering together to protect your child?s health. To learn more, contact us today at 314-582-3611.