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Is asbestos endangering your child?

You are probably gratified to hear of the measures and precautions your child's school takes to protect the students from harm. Laws require your child and others to receive certain vaccines or boosters to prevent the spread of disease. Teachers supervise recess and other activities to minimize chances of injury. Many Pennsylvania schools even install security cameras or post guards to protect your child from intruders.

Nevertheless, as you prepare your child to return to school, you may be unaware of dangers lurking unchecked in the very buildings where hundreds of children spend the majority of their waking hours. If your child attends school in one of the many older buildings in the state's school districts, the high risk of asbestos exposure may concern you.

Where is asbestos found?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that, while most schools contain asbestos, about one third of the nation's school buildings present an immediate danger to those who occupy them. School systems constructed these older buildings with asbestos-containing materials such as flooring, ceiling tiles and roofing materials. As buildings continue to age, more exposure is likely when the materials break down releasing toxic fibers into the air.

Despite the efforts of safety advocates and environmental groups, asbestos is not a banned substance in the United States. While its use has declined, many products still contain the dangerous substance. In fact, you may be shocked to learn of the use of asbestos in products imported from China. You may wish to check with your child's teachers about the source of the crayons, toys and other supplies your child uses regularly while at school.

Who is at risk?

In case you worry that no one is protecting your child from the dangers of asbestos, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act may provide some comfort. This federal law requires schools to take immediate action upon the discovery of an asbestos hazard in a school. Sadly, the compliance with this law has been dismal, and with little federal oversight, teachers and children continue to spend many hours a day breathing potentially harmful asbestos into their lungs.

Teachers rank among the top five professions at risk of asbestos-related cancers and other lung diseases. In fact, a teacher in a public or non-profit U.S. school is twice as likely to suffer from mesothelioma than the general public.

If you fear your child may be taking the same risks, you may feel compelled to take action by gathering like-minded parents to investigate the state of your child's school building. On the other hand, perhaps you have a loved one who is already suffering from Mesothelioma or another illness from exposure to asbestos in the workplace. You have the right to seek answers and guidance from an attorney who has experience assisting families dealing with the tragic effects of asbestos exposure.

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