EPA Taking Money Away from School Asbestos Removal
The EPA’s internal watchdog announced earlier this week that the agency is shifting money away from a federally-mandated program that is earmarked to help remove toxic asbestos from the nation’s schools, reports the Associated Press.
Under a federal act passed in 1986 – entitled the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act – public school districts and non-profit schools including charter schools and schools affiliated with religious institutions are required to “inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material and prepare management plans and take action to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards.”
It is up to the EPA to make sure that this happens.
The watchdog office, which is independently funded within the EPA, said some local EPA offices have eliminated resources for asbestos oversight for schools, citing dwindling dollars and competing priorities that make it impossible to keep up with such work.
In addition, a report by the Inspector General’s office notes that about half the EPA’s regional districts only check for asbestos in a school if they receive a specific complaint from a parent, staff or faculty member, or school administrator.
So, who’s to blame for the lack of attention to this important issue, especially in the nation’s oldest schools where asbestos is obviously present?
It depends on who you ask.
EPA spokesperson Michael Abboud said it’s the fault of the Obama administration, explaining that they “didn’t do enough to provide adequate protections to children from asbestos exposure.”
On the other hand, the current president seems to be a fan of asbestos. Under his watch, the EPA has passed laws that have loosened regulations on the toxic mineral and that open doors for new uses.
Environmentalists and others who’ve been campaigning for a total ban on the use of the material are left shaking their heads and doubting that they’ll make any headway with their campaign until Trump leaves office.
In the meantime, those who work in schools where asbestos is abundant worry about the chances of exposure to the toxin. One can only hope that individual schools are taking it upon themselves to monitor the material and to issue warnings when there’s a concern.
Unfortunately, however, asbestos abatement is expensive and many school districts – especially cash-poor urban districts – wind up not having enough funds to address the problem.
That’s where the EPA funds would have helped, but with cutbacks, it’s difficult to say how districts will proceed when there’s an asbestos issue to be addressed.