As part of The American Jobs Act, Obama has proposed asbestos abatement in our schools. He has made the case that spending money now will pay off later in global productivity and competitiveness. And one of the biggest investments he is proposing is in education. The President recently announced a $447 billion “American Jobs Act” proposal, including a $25 billion investment to modernize at least 35,000 public schools to create jobs while improving classrooms and updating technology needs. States would have three to six months to get the money to the school districts, which would in turn have two years to use it for the modernization projects.
To date, “the don’t move it theory” has been the most widely used means of protecting our children. The EPA’s asbestos program for schools, mandated by the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), and its regulations for schools and other buildings is founded on the principle of “in-place” management of asbestos-containing material (ACM). This approach is designed to prevent asbestos exposure by teaching people to recognize asbestos-containing materials and actively monitor and, where necessary, manage them in place. Removal of ACM is not usually necessary unless the material is severely damaged or will be disturbed by a building demolition or renovation project. Obama’s project will actually include the removal and remodeling of the most needing schools. Certainly a more permanent solution to an ongoing problem.
An ongoing problem that, up until now, has been left to fester until drastic measures must be taken. Such drastic measures were taken by:
- St. Louis Park Junior and Senior High Schools. In February of this year, students were sent home from both school buildings after officials discovered tiles that had eroded through contact with salt and other particles on people’s shoes.
- Hilltop Elementary School in Ohio was forced to close their doors in September of this year so workers could get to the building’s roof to reinforce 35 square feet of weakened plaster that is known to contain asbestos. The plaster roofing was weakened during heavy rains that had hit the area over a period of time.
- A Salem Massachusettes school was also closed last month when while removing a non-functioning chimney at Burke Elementary School, contractors surprisingly uncovered asbestos. The Superintendent closed the school for a day in order to avoid exposure to both students and staff. .
- Just this week, the Closing of McCombs Middle School in Iowa was tied to a miscommunication among contractors involved in a construction project that led to harmful asbestos particles being released into the air. A library ceiling was removed ahead of schedule, causing officials to clear the school.
Upon the passing of the jobs bill, money will be allocated to school districts for the improvement and renovation of the 100 largest and “high need” public school districts around the country, benefiting an estimated 35,000 schools.
“Every child deserves a great school, and we can give it to them,” President Obama said this week in Ohio, where he discussed the jobs bill.
Our experienced asbestos attorneys support any efforts to reduce asbestos exposure; especially that which is affecting the youth of America. And we fight for the rights of those who were exposed by those companies who manufactured asbestos containing products knowingly putting the users at risk.
Briefing Room, The White House. (2011, September 13). Fact Sheet: Repairing and Modernizing America’s Schools [Press Release].