The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named asbestos as a priority chemical to be evaluated for risk, yet at the same time, asbestos inspections at schools are being eliminated, supposedly due to budget constraints. The EPA is presented with a tough decision, reminiscent of the movie “Sophie’s Choice,” when a mother arrives at Auschwitz concentration camp with her two children and is faced with the decision between saving the life of either her son or her daughter. EPA is indicating it will either protect our kids and school staff from asbestos or lead paint, but not both.

Most people believe that asbestos is already banned in the United States. While progress has been made to limit certain uses of asbestos, it has never successfully been banned. In 1989, the EPA issued its Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule, which was challenged in the courts by industry and overturned in 1991.

Asbestos can be found in automotive brakes and clutches, and is still used in building materials, such as floor and ceiling tiles, cement asbestos pipe, corrugated paper pipe wrap, acoustical and decorative insulation, pipe and boiler insulation, and spray-applied fireproofing. EPA estimates that there are asbestos-containing materials in most of the nation’s primary, secondary, and charter schools —particularly in buildings constructed prior to 1980.

Full opinion-editorial by Bonnie Anderson, a 15-year survivor of peritoneal mesothelioma and patient advocate and Debra Coyle McFadden, WEC assistant director in NJ Spotlight, May 23, 2017.