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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave $631,000 to New England states to fund asbestos protection activities in school buildings. The funds will go towards ensuring schools take steps to manage asbestos per the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act requirements.
Under this act, officials working at public and private elementary and middle schools are responsible for having their buildings inspected for asbestos materials. They are required to prepare asbestos management plans and perform activities that prevent or decrease asbestos dangers.
These officials need to keep asbestos management plans up-to-date to document suggested asbestos response actions, identify where asbestos is located within a building, and record actions done to repair or remove the hazardous material.
Each school should maintain an asbestos maintenance accreditation and certification training program. These new funds from the EPA will support that as well as asbestos exposure education for teachers, parents, and school maintenance personnel.
According to EPA Healthy Schools, students spend 90% of their time inside—and most of that is in school. Unhealthy building environments can hurt their health, attendance, concentration, and performance.
The $631,000 will also help with audits to check if licensed asbestos professionals are being hired and complying with federal law.
The money was distributed amongst five state agencies with each one receiving $100,000 to $166,000. The variance depended on how much work each agency committed to.
The Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards runs the Massachusetts program, environmental agencies run the New Hampshire and Maine programs, and the departments of health run programs in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Inspectors have found some common violations including schools not having a “designated person” to manage asbestos, not updating asbestos management plans every three years, and not informing parents of the plan being on file each year. When asbestos is discovered, it’s typically in boiler room pipes or floor tiles.
While this funding will enhance asbestos protection in schools, the EPA is also limiting reviews of chemicals such as asbestos. The Trump administration has moved forward with only reviewing toxins still being manufactured and entering commerce, not focusing on new handling and disposal rules for existing materials.