Every year in America, 15,000 people die from asbestos-related illnesses, a sad fact considering that asbestos has been known as a danger to our health for decades now.
Among other complications, asbestos poisoning causes mesothelioma - a deadly cancer that threatens the respiratory system. While asbestos was a common insulation material from the 1940s to the late 1970s, the excuses for its continued use ran out long ago. So with all we know about asbestos and its links to mesiothelioma, why would asbestos still be present in our children's schools?
California is ground zero in the fight to keep our kids safe from harmful carcinogens like asbestos. Just last year in the Ocean View School District, 11 buildings were discovered to contain asbestos, posing a threat to the well-being of local children, 1,700 of whom were forced to move to another school. The cost to remove asbestos, however, maybe what's holding schoolboards back from fully tackling the problem. Ocean View School District, for example, was forced to take out a loan for the $15 million in expenditures required to get rid of the poisonous substance.
But there's a good reason asbestos removal is the law: this cancer-causing material is a clear and present danger to our health. In accordance with EPA and OSHA regulations, the 1986 Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act requires regular inspections of both private and public schools to check for asbestos and then implement thorough cleaning procedures upon its discovery. Yet oversight is spotty, especially with budget gaps in the California school system that make a fully-enacted inspection and cleaning policy more of a "wishlist" item rather than a necessity.
The urgency of dealing with the asbestos problem, along with its cost, calls for action at the highest state level, with help from the federal government. If there's ever been a public health hazard that justified increased funding for prevention efforts, asbestos is it. The well-being of our children is on the line.