A Layman's Guide To Asbestos Management And Removal For School Administrators

Asbestos has some shockingly useful properties, allowing it to provide excellent insulation and resistance to fire. Unfortunately, these properties are why so many buildings contain asbestos-containing building materials (ACBM). While no longer used in new construction, the long life of many school buildings makes ACBMs all too common.

In the US, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) regulates how public and private schools must manage and mitigate risks from asbestos. While asbestos management plans are complex, a few things are important to know when dealing with the potential presence of asbestos in schools. These three questions will provide a basic guide for administrators who may need to address this issue.

1. How Harmful Are Asbestos-Containing Materials?

Asbestos is a complicated subject. The primary danger from asbestos comes from fibers, which create a severe risk of lung cancer when inhaled in large quantities. On the other hand, undisturbed asbestos-containing materials pose little risk. However, since many of these materials are old, there's a potentially severe risk of exposure as they degrade and require replacement.

The AHERA regulations require schools to perform inspections to locate potentially hazardous ACBM. The presence of these materials isn't necessarily harmful, but it's crucial to monitor their condition. Once materials such as your building's ceiling or floor tiles begin to degrade, planning for professional asbestos abatement and removal may be necessary.

2. When Do Asbestos-Containing Materials Become Hazardous?

If you have concerns about asbestos-containing materials in your building, you must work with a trained and certified asbestos company to inspect and test the materials. That said, the general rule of thumb is to determine whether there's a risk of an ACBM breaking apart or releasing airborne fibrous material. For example, a cracked floor tile can produce potentially hazardous dust.

Remember that it's better to be safe than sorry when dealing with asbestos. Any signs of chalky or dusty material are a strong indication that there's a risk of asbestos exposure. Likewise, materials cracking, breaking apart, or otherwise appearing to be in poor condition may release asbestos fibers. Working only with qualified asbestos companies is critical when repairing or removing these materials.

3. Why Should You Consider Proactive Removal?

It's generally not necessary (or even advisable) to remove ACBMs in good condition, as the removal process will disturb these materials and may release asbestos fibers. However, there are certain situations where proactive removal makes sense, especially in a school environment. In particular, removing materials near the end of their lifespan may be better than waiting for failure.

It's particularly important to monitor materials that may see frequent usage or wear, such as vinyl floors, ceiling tiles, and asbestos-containing paint. These materials may expose students to asbestos as they fail, so it's often better to work with a professional removal company once they clearly require replacement. This proactive approach can help improve safety and minimize student risk. 

For more info about asbestos removal, contact a local company.