Lax oversight of asbestos in schools imperils students, staff
Kudos to the Globe for its reporting on school districts’ lack of compliance with laws and regulations designed to keep schoolchildren and employees safe from exposure to asbestos fibers and other harmful substances (“Schools fail to keep track of asbestos,” Page A1, Dec. 6).
When the Massachusetts Teachers Association learned that more than 1,000 schools had ignored the state's request for documentation of their compliance with the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, our organization took action to protect our own members' health and the health of students. Among public sector workers, after firefighters, educators are at an elevated risk for developing asbestos-related illnesses.
The MTA held five trainings throughout the state, teaching members how to assess potential hazards, bring dangerous conditions to the attention of school officials, and advocate for and monitor remediation efforts. Much more needs to be done in this area, including educating the public.
The lack of enforcement of federal asbestos safety requirements remains a serious health concern. We know that school administrators are busy and funds are tight, but reinspection and management plans of asbestos in public buildings must be current to ensure the ongoing health and safety of everyone.
The writer, a former teacher, is chairwoman of the Massachusetts Teachers Association's environmental health and safety committee.