Posted on July 27, 2018

The 2017-2018 school year is complete and summer is here! Although the next school year is only a few months away, there is nothing like preparing for our loved one’s bright academic future! As they transition from lounging at the house to spending the majority of their time in school, we want to believe they will be safe from harm there, but when it comes to asbestos in schools, it’s up to us as parents to play the watchdog role.

Last year around the back to school season, I published a Huffpost article — “3 Key Steps to Protecting Your Kids from Asbestos at School” — discussing the prevalence of asbestos in schools. One year later, this information remains relevant, especially given the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent blind eye to the asbestos problem in our schools.

Recently, The United States Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) was once again on the cutting edge of science, and found that some Playskool Crayons are contaminated with asbestos. Yes, you read that right– kids crayons contain the lethal mineral that is known to have no safe or controlled level of use or exposure.

Asbestos is a significant public health issue. Once inhaled or ingested, its little fibers — although microscopic to the bare eye — pose a significant damage to our health. Although we cannot see it, it is a grave threat to our health and should be treated as such. It becomes more imperative when our loved ones spend almost 40 hours a week in buildings that possibly contain asbestos.

So, as mentioned in my Huffpost article, here is a checklist that is still relevant to ensure your loved ones stay safe from asbestos during the upcoming school year:

“ 1.  Understand the risk:

Asbestos is prevalent in our nation’s schools. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “estimates that there are asbestos containing materials in most of the nation’s approximately 107,000 primary and secondary schools.” More than one-third of American students (34%) were enrolled in a school with asbestos-containing material that could easily crumble. Exposures to asbestos in schools are expected to increase as school buildings age.

Also, know that asbestos has not been banned in the U.S., and without a ban asbestos-contaminated products find their way onto store shelves far too often. Chillingly, many of these toxic products are meant for kids, from toys and crayons to play makeup. Be wary of what your kids are playing with — both at school and at home — especially products made in China, where asbestos is still mined and heavily used in manufacturing.

2. Know the rules and your rights:

Public and non-profit private schools are required by federal law to protect school children and school employees from asbestos exposure under a law called the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA).

Unfortunately, despite the law our school children, teachers, and staff remain at risk, in large part due to lack of awareness and poor enforcement.  Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Edward Markey asked each state for information on asbestos in schools to survey compliance with AHERA standards. The responses indicated serious failures by the federal government and a vast majority of states to sufficiently protect students, teachers and staff.

Ask your school administrators, district officials, and school board what steps they have taken. You have to be a squeaky wheel. If you do not get direct and concrete answers, keep asking. You have a right to this information, and your children have a right to protection.

3. Spread the Word and Organize:

The EPA issued “The ABCs Of Asbestos In Schools” to help parents and teachers. Print this out and share it with your school administrators and other parents.

If your school has a PTA or other sort of parents’ group, consider raising this issue with them. Few among us have the time to fully address such a complex, obscure issue on our own, but as a team we can develop a manageable action plan. Strength in numbers is especially important when protecting our kids requires us to stand up to authority.”

This information may seem daunting, but asbestos-caused diseases are 100% preventable. Together with the proper tools, we can minimize our children’s risk of asbestos exposure.

With awareness, education, and collaborative action, we can take charge of this issue and better protect our families. So contact your school administrator today and see what you can do to make sure our future generation is safe!

Together, change is possible!

Linda Reinstein
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