For Immediate Release: September 17, 2018
ADAO Issues Statement on the New Inspector General Report Revealing Deadly Risk of Asbestos in Schools, and Strongly Criticizes EPA for Not Taking Action
Report reveals EPA de-prioritized asbestos programs, leaving students and teachers at risk to deadly exposures
Washington, DC —September 17, 2018 — The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), an independent nonprofit dedicated to preventing asbestos exposure through education, advocacy, and community work, today announced that the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General released a report “EPA Needs to Re-Evaluate Its Compliance Monitoring Priorities for Minimizing Asbestos Risks in Schools,” detailing the failures of the EPA to appropriately monitor and manage asbestos in our schools. In addition, ADAO underlined the EPA’s lack of action and de-prioritization of asbestos risks.
The 1986 Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) requires the EPA to conduct inspections in schools for the majority of states, but the report found that the EPA had neglected these responsibilities. In response to the report, the EPA claimed it had disinvested from asbestos programs in favor of other priorities.
“It is reprehensible that the EPA has ignored asbestos in schools and disinvested in AHERA, exposing children and teachers to this deadly substance,” ADAO President and CEO Linda Reinstein said. “The EPA’s reckless mismanagement of AHERA and TSCA implementation, which has only deteriorated under the Trump administration, ensures that more and more Americans will be exposed to asbestos – including our children. Each year, nearly 40,000 Americans die from preventable mesothelioma, lung, ovarian and laryngeal cancer, and asbestosis. As a mesothelioma widow, I am outraged at the findings of this report—another example supporting the need for the EPA to ban asbestos and end the man-made disaster. The EPA has failed Americans, again. It’s time for Congress to keep our students and school staff safe by enforcing AHERA and banning asbestos now.”
The report notes that children are at a higher risk for asbestos exposure, “because they are more active, breathe at higher rates and through the mouth, and spend more time closer to the floor where asbestos fibers can accumulate.” This is a critical acknowledgement that has taken the EPA far too long to admit.
Leading experts have also voiced their concerns.
“I welcome the conclusions from the Office of Inspector General report stating that the EPA needs to re-evaluate its compliance monitoring priorities for minimizing asbestos risks in schools,” said Richard Lemen, PhD, MSPH, Retired Assistant Surgeon General of the United States and ADAO Science Advisory Board Co-Chair. “As a representative of the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the original ‘Asbestos Hazards Safety Task Force’ of the U.S. Department of Education concerning asbestos in schools, established in 1980, I have long been concerned about the risks from asbestos exposures to children, teachers, custodians, and others working in our nation’s schools. I commend the Office of Inspector General and implore the EPA to act immediately to address the EPA’s failings on this issue.”
“Turning a blind eye to the risks to children from asbestos at school is tantamount to installing cigarette machines in the hallways,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Congress should not confirm Alexandra Dunn to head EPA’s chemical safety office unless she commits to follow the law and help schools tackle this serious health threat facing an untold number of children.”
“Despite the serious health threats to teachers and students from poorly managed asbestos in schools, EPA is doing next to nothing to assure that schools have protections in place to prevent asbestos exposures during renovations and repairs,” said Robert Sussman, former EPA Deputy Administrator and Senior Policy Counsel to the EPA Administrator. “EPA’s excuse that it lacks resources for this task doesn’t hold water given that those states with asbestos abatement programs are doing much more than EPA and the Trump administration has irresponsibly downsized EPA’s workforce, resulting in neglect of its critical public health mission.”
About the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was founded by asbestos victims and their families in 2004. ADAO is the largest non-profit in the U.S. dedicated to providing asbestos victims and concerned citizens with a united voice through our education, advocacy, and community initiatives. ADAO seeks to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure, advocate for an asbestos ban, and protect asbestos victims’ civil rights. For more information, visit www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org