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

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.”

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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

Using Situational Awareness on the Jobsite

Construction SiteIn part one and part two of the situational awareness blog series, we defined situational awareness and referenced its use in do-it-yourself projects. In this final installment of the series, we discuss how the use of situational awareness can save lives on the jobsite.

Most of us take on the responsibility of a job or career knowing that we will spend approximately eight hours per day on the jobsite. Each day, as we enter our jobsite, many of us proceed directly to our workspace without being aware of what is happening around us. Just as situational awareness (SA) can save our lives in daily situations, SA can save our lives on the job.

You may find yourself in a situation in which you are working in an area that may present the possibility of airborne exposures to harmful materials, such as asbestos. You may not be in direct contact with asbestos, but you may be in close proximity to an area where a possible asbestos containing material (ACM) is being disturbed, putting you at risk of exposure.

The jobsite pictured above contains many possible exposures, as many tasks are happening simultaneously.

When you enter a jobsite such as the one pictured, it is important to use situational awareness and take the first few moments on the site to focus on yourself and your safety. For example, first responders are trained to use situational awareness every time they are called, and they are required to use the first 10-30 seconds upon entering a scene to focus on themselves and how their surroundings may affect them.

The first few moments on the jobsite should be spent evaluating your surroundings, observing the tasks that are happening, materials that are being used, potential byproducts being created, workers that are in the area, and machinery that is present. If you have any questions from this evaluation period, do not start working until you have spoken with your immediate supervisor.

Today, workers have adopted a “Safety Culture” thought process. Situational awareness is an important piece of this culture. Examples include:

  1. Complex situations are better thought out
  2. Chains of command are established
  3. Toxic exposures are reduced
  4. There is less fear of job hazards and toxic exposures
  5. An emergency plan is thought out

A few of the positive outcomes from incorporating SA into your daily work schedule are:

  1. A safer work environment
  2. Less toxic exposures
  3. Proactive, NOT reactive, decision making
  4. Cost savings for your employers
  5. Healthier employees

To learn more about utilizing situational awareness, please read part one of this blog series. For information regarding the use of situational awareness during do-it-yourself projects, please read part two.