Report: EPA Failed to Minimize Asbestos Risks in U.S. Schools

The Office of Inspector General released a new report finding that the EPA must re-evaluate its asbestos monitoring priorities in schools. The report found that between 2011 and 2015, only 13% of inspections were conducted by the EPA in accordance to the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Respond Act.

States conducted 87% of the inspections, six times higher than the federal government, with jurisdiction over their own inspections.

The report did find that the EPA conducted inspections in a majority of states, but more can be done to limit asbestos risks in U.S. Schools. Schools are required, since 1986, to inspect buildings for any materials that may contain asbestos. If asbestos is found, management plans must be put in place and response actions must be taken for the safety of students and staff members.

Buildings built before 1980 pose the highest risk, and materials will become more of a concern when work or renovations are done in these buildings.

“Our objective was to determine whether the EPA was performing sufficient compliance inspections of schools to reduce asbestos exposure,” writes The Inspector General.

The EPA conducted 848 of the 6,359 inspections between 2011 and 2015. Lack of monitoring by the EPA impacted schools in 29 states.

” No longer known as the ‘miracle mineral,’ asbestos is now considered to be one of the world’s deadliest substances. Asbestos is highly carcinogenic and is known to cause ovarian cancer, laryngeal cancer, clubbed fingers, asbestosis and lung cancer. It is also the only known cause of mesothelioma, a rare, devastating cancer with no cure,” explains Vogelzang Law.

The 29 states impacted do not have waivers or fall within the non-waiver states. Oftentimes, these states have some of the highest asbestosis and mesothelioma deaths. Only 28 inspections in each of the 29 were conducted. Half of the districts only conducted investigations after specific complaints were received. These inspections often occur after significant exposure may have occurred.

Florida, Michigan and California are three of the 29 states severely impacted by the EPA’s failure.

South-Central regional offices failed miserably, conducted zero inspections between 2012 and 2016. Arkansas and New Mexico are included within the South-Central region.

Asbestos exposure can take 10 to 50 years to present after the initial exposure occurs. Children are at a higher exposure risk due to breathing in higher rates of air. A lack of resources was cited as one of the main reasons that the EPA failed to conduct a majority of the inspections.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.