Asbestos Laws and Regulations in Schools

Danger: AsbestosIn 1984, the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Act (ASHAA) was established by Ronald Regan, making funding available to schools with a significant asbestos hazard and need for financial assistance. The ASHAA not only aimed to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure, but also made funding and assistance from local government agencies available where needed. Under this Act, employees would not be penalized for bringing possible asbestos-containing materials to their school’s attention.

In 1986, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) crafted regulations in accordance with the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). According to the EPA, the AHERA requires local educational agencies to inspect schools for asbestos-containing materials, prepare asbestos management plans, and perform asbestos response actions to reduce asbestos hazards. Under the AHERA, the EPA must also provide states with a model accreditation plan for persons conducting asbestos inspections and corrective actions in schools.

The AHERA requires compliance from all local educational agencies and public and private non-profit elementary and secondary schools. Pursuant to the AHERA, the Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools rule requires local education agencies to conduct training, inspections, and sampling, and annually notify parents, teachers, and employee organizations of all asbestos-related activities.

Designated persons are the key players in the success of individual school’s AHERA compliance. A designated person, assigned by their school district or local education agency, is responsible for ensuring their school’s compliance with the AHERA and overseeing all asbestos-related activities. This person is also responsible for ensuring their school has an up-to-date asbestos management plan, and he/she serves as a resource for the school’s community.

To determine if your school is in compliance with the AHERA, contact your school’s designated person and ask to see a copy of the school’s asbestos management plan. Under the AHERA, the Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools Rule requires that a school make their asbestos management plan available to the public within five working days of a request. It is important that a school’s community is familiar with their designated person and can work together to make their school safe for students, workers, and parents.

For further information about the asbestos and prevention program at the Meso Foundation, visit

Battling the Financial Burden: Tips for Caregivers and Patients

FinancesAlthough we know that a cancer diagnosis brings with it a financial burden, we do not often speak about money when discussing the experiences of patients and caregivers. In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, Janet G., the mother of a mesothelioma survivor, has provided us with some tips for patients and families facing financial difficulties as a result of mesothelioma. Janet has helped us outline some of the common concerns below.

Financial struggles can take a toll on patients and caregivers alike, and the first and most important thing to do is to admit that you may need assistance. This can be the hardest part, but it is important to acknowledge the problem and express your concern to close family and friends. Discussing the need for financial assistance can lead you to resource that would otherwise go unknown, and simply sharing your worry with others may lessen the emotional toll it is taking on you.

When Janet’s daughter was diagnosed with mesothelioma, she was a young, recently married parent, and she and her husband were not prepared for the diagnosis, especially financially. As a result, they sought financial assistance from everywhere they could get it.

Janet notes that an excellent place to start seeking assistance is at your hospital. Find a social worker or patient advocate with whom you can speak about your needs and concerns. Within hours of seeking financial assistance at their hospital, Janet’s daughter and husband met with a social worker who helped them through the process of legalities, including establishing medical power of attorney, a living will, and guardianship forms for their minor child. Everything that needed to be legally filed with the county or state was done through the social worker without any fees for the service.

Additionally, hospitals often have programs to help reduce costs that are not openly advertised, but are available if you ask. These programs can be as simple as free parking, discounts for patients and families at local hotels and restaurants, or free shuttle services. Some hospitals will even have programs to reduce your overall hospital charges and insurance co-pays.

Another area to consider is personal fundraising. Some patients and caregivers do not feel comfortable taking this on, but it is something you can enlist a family member or close friend to do. There are plenty of online resources, such as, that make personal fundraising easy. Janet and her family also found that churches and ministerial groups often have funding resources available. After the mesothelioma diagnosis, the cost of daycare for the youngest of Janet’s daughter’s children was covered by the family’s church.

You can also reach out to local groups and businesses to help with fundraising. Janet’s family contacted the local Vietnam Veterans group, which was happy to host a fundraiser. Janet was also able to call on a close contact connected with a fishing club, and they organized a fundraising tournament. The family even reached out to local businesses, where they were granted permission to place donation canisters, and upon hearing of the family’s situation, a local church group offered to bring them meals.

Janet also suggests having an honest conversation with your bank. Often, loan and mortgage payments can be temporarily reduced. If you are senior citizens, there are likely many services available of which you are unaware. Start by asking the director of a local senior citizens center about agencies you can contact, as they should be able to provide you with information about where to go and with whom to speak. You may also want to contact a law firm that handles senior law or look into nearby universities or colleges that may provide some or all of the services you are seeking, such as protecting your assets, leaving inheritance, and so on.

The Meso Foundation also offers financial assistance to mesothelioma patients through our patient travel grant program. To learn more about this program and apply for assistance, click here.

Meso Foundation Participates in 2015 Weinman Symposium

2015 Weinman ConferenceMary Hesdorffer, APRN, the executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, was one of the 30 international speakers at the 2015 Weinman Symposium at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center.

The conference, which was sponsored by Weinman Foundation’s Honolulu chapter, the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, and UH Cancer Center, focused on mesothelioma in populations exposed to naturally occurring asbestiform fibers.

The special guest and award recipient at this year’s conference was Dr. Mary-Claire King. Dr. King is best known for her discovery of the BRCA1 gene, which is associated with development of breast and ovarian cancers.

“This conference puts Hawaii as the leading place to discuss ways on how to fight asbestos-related cancer,” said Dr. Michele Carbone, the lead organizer of the conference. “This is the first international conference to discuss how to prevent this type of cancer.”

“What makes these Carbone conferences unique is that he brings together experts from multiple disciplines to help problem-solve in mesothelioma. It is very exciting to have experts like Dr. King actively participate in this conference stimulating discussion on the BAP1 gene and its implications in mesothelioma.”

To stay up to date with the Meso Foundation and the latest news in the field of mesothelioma, sign up here to receive our e-newsletter.

Asbestos Exposure in the Military

Veterans DayThrough many decades of service and numerous tours of duty, our veterans in all branches of the armed forces have faced asbestos exposure and continue to face exposure today.

It is well known that Navy ships built prior to 1980 contain significant amounts of asbestos-containing materials that were used in areas such as boiler rooms, pump rooms, and turrets. In addition to those who were exposed while serving in the Navy, many workers were exposed while building these ships and more are being exposed today as the same ships are being demolished.

Roughly one third of mesothelioma patients were exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy or working in the shipbuilding industry. The Navy is faced with the highest rate of asbestos exposure of all military branches, and shipyard workers face the highest rate of occupational exposure across all trades.

Nonetheless, asbestos was used in other branches of the military. In the Army, vehicles such as tanks and jeeps have been known to contain asbestos gaskets, brakes and clutch discs. The fighter jets and cargo planes used by the Air Force are known to have been built with asbestos material in areas such as firewalls, electrical, valves and insulation, as well as engine parts. Marines were put at risk of exposure by the above-mentioned vehicles, which they often used as transportation.

While the military began to phase out asbestos use in the 1970s, the possibility of exposure still exists today as a result of its widespread use in the past. We still see asbestos in civilian areas, such as in products used in the construction of military housing before 1980, including floor tiles, insulation, HVAC systems, and many other products that now require removal or repairs.

Veterans who served in WWII through 1980 are thought to be at high risk of having been exposed to asbestos. Unfortunately, with these exposures comes the risk of developing mesothelioma. There is a 20 to 50 year latency period between time of exposure and development of mesothelioma, meaning those who were exposed decades ago are being diagnosed today.

At the Meso Foundation, our work on behalf of veterans affected by mesothelioma today, and those who will develop mesothelioma in the future, spans throughout the year. Visit to learn more about our prevention program.

Trade Union Recognizes Need for Asbestos Awareness Training

Asbestos PipesSheet Metal Workers Local Union 12 (SMW 12) has been around for many decades in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The union has played a major role in the building of Pittsburgh and many other areas throughout Western Pennsylvania. Through decades of service and building, SMW 12 members have been faced with the possibility of occupational asbestos exposure while working in powerhouses, schools, hospitals, government buildings, etc. There are over 1,100 active members of SMW 12, who serve 23 Pennsylvania counties. Many of these members are second and third generation sheet metal workers, who can remember the stories of prior generations — the stories of how it would “snow asbestos” from above while on the job. Today, we strive to eliminate this type of occupational exposure.

As part of our prevention program at the Meso Foundation, Diane Blackburn-Zambetti, Director of Policy and Prevention Education, works with the general public, trade unions, and any other interested company or entity, to educate about asbestos and its dangers in order to prevent exposure and asbestos-related disease development. SMW 12 Training Coordinator Keith Schettler and Assistant Training Coordinator Len Liebert have embraced the need for asbestos awareness training. Staff at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) 30-hour training program, including Blair McDermott, Chuck Greer, Todd Deitrick, and Jeff Eyer, has expressed similar sentiment.

Diane had the chance to speak with Keith Schettler about the benefits of asbestos education in the trades industry. Keith has been a sheet metal worker for 35 years, following in the footsteps of his father and uncles along with his brothers and cousins, and passing the trade on to his son. Keith recalls a push for asbestos education in the 90s, but notes that it has since fallen by the wayside, which is not acceptable. “I have been exposed to asbestos since the day I was born and it frightens me that we do so little to educate people on the harm of it,” Keith stated.

This is the issue that the Meso Foundation is working to remedy. Diane recently visited SMW 12 to speak and provide 105 apprentices with our asbestos education presentation. The response was positive; the apprentices found it very educational and one common sentiment from the journeypersons was that they wish they had this type of education sooner.

It is important to note that even if workers were previously exposed to asbestos, it is not too late to be educated on the dangers of exposure and the potential for disease development. When asked if SMW 12 members still encounter asbestos on the job, Keith said yes. Asbestos is still present in floor tiles, air shafts, plaster, support beams, elevator shafts, piping in HVAC systems, spray-on fireproofing on beams, and so on. With the asbestos education provided by Diane, SMW 12 members are now better equipped with the knowledge of how to recognize asbestos, prevent exposure, and understand potential asbestos-related diseases.

The Meso Foundation is grateful to have had the chance to educate members of SMW 12 and for the support from the training staff, as we continue to provide asbestos education services. To learn more about our program and request a presentation at your trade union or company, visit