EPA requires schools to be responsible for a number of asbestos-related activities, including the implementation of a plan for managing asbestos-containing building materials (ACBM) in the school buildings and compliance with the federal asbestos regulations. Under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), schools are required to appoint an Asbestos Manager, called the "AHERA Designated Person."
Information on Asbestos
Asbestos has been used in thousands of products, largely because it is plentiful, readily available, cheap, strong, does not burn, conducts heat and electricity poorly, and is resistant to chemical corrosion. Products made with asbestos are often referred to as asbestos-containing materials (ACM).
Asbestos proved particularly useful in the construction industry. Building materials that contain asbestos are referred to as asbestos-containing building materials (ACBM). Commercial usage of asbestos products in the construction industry was most common from about 1945 to 1980. Some of the most common uses of ACBM include:
- Fireproofing material
- Insulation material
- Acoustical or soundproofing material
- Miscellaneous materials
EPA Policy for Asbestos Control in Schools
EPA bases its policy for asbestos control in schools on the following premises:
- Although asbestos is hazardous, the risk of asbestos-related disease depends upon exposure to airborne asbestos fibers.
- Based on available data, the average airborne asbestos levels in buildings seem to be very low. Accordingly, the health risk to most building occupants also appears to be very low.
- Removal is often not a building owner's best course of action to reduce asbestos exposure.
- EPA only requires asbestos removal to prevent significant public exposure to airborne asbestos fibers during building demolition or renovation activities.
Asbestos that has been identified will pose little risk if it is well maintained under an operations and maintenance program. EPA requires a pro-active, in-place management program whenever ACBM is discovered and is not removed.
- All abatement and removal is conducted according to rules and regulations set forth by the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS).
- Not every pipe, floor tile, floor tile mastic, and ceiling tile contains asbestos material, but whether it does or not cannot be determined by the naked eye. Samples of the suspect material (collected by licensed workers) are analyzed under a microscope in a certified laboratory. Every suspect sample is considered positive until proven otherwise.
- Asbestosis removed only when required for renovation, remodeling or maintenance. This usually involves moving ceiling tile, repairing plumbing, replacing flooring or anything else that contains asbestos. It is the responsibility of maintenance operations personnel or contractors to arrange for inspection and/or removal of asbestos by E & S.
- Abatement is done inside enclosures to prevent fibers from spreading. Air handling units serving the affected area are turned off until the work is completed to keep the fibers from spreading to other areas. Workers wear respirators and disposable coveralls to protect themselves while working. To prevent any attached fibers from getting into the surrounding air, the coveralls are disposed of when the worker exits the enclosure.
- When a job has been completed, samples of the surrounding air are analyzed under a microscope at a certified laboratory. Based on the results, the area is either cleared or re-cleaned and re-sampled. If the area is declared "clear," it is opened to normal occupancy and all warning signs are removed.
During abatement activities, All warning signs must be observed and followed.