State issues report on asbestos exposure protection efforts

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BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP)–A new report highlighting efforts to protect children, families, and workers from the health risks posed by exposure to asbestos was released by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office this week.

The report highlights the work of AG Healey’s “Healthy Buildings, Healthy Air Initiative” that was created three years ago and focuses on combating the harms associated with asbestos by partnering with state agencies to educate the public about asbestos safety, taking action against landlords, contractors, and property owners who break the law, and advocating for stronger protections at the federal level.

Since creating the Initiative, the AG’s Office has worked with other agencies to develop an online database mapping the presence of asbestos in schools and has secured more than $3.4 million in penalties for violations of the state law governing the proper handling of the dangerous chemical. 

Asbestos, a known carcinogen, is responsible for the deaths of 12,000 to 15,000 people nationwide each year and is used in a wide variety of building materials from roofing and flooring, to siding and wallboard, to caulking and insulation. While some uses of asbestos have been limited by legislation or standard practices over the last 50 years, materials containing the fiber can still be found in many older buildings, particularly homes, schools and workplaces.

If asbestos is not handled or maintained properly, fibers can be released into the air and inhaled, potentially resulting in life threatening illnesses, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. Both mesothelioma and asbestosis are serious diseases of which there is no known cure and there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos remains prevalent in many public and private schools, in large part because of the cost of abatement and the limits of school budgets. The Asbestos Hazard and Emergency Response Act, a federal law enacted in 1986, requires schools to identify and address asbestos hazards. As part of the initiative, AG Healey’s Office partnered with DLS, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the Massachusetts Facilities Administrators Association, and the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials to create the first publicly accessible online inventory of asbestos in the state’s schools.

The AG’s Office is continuing its efforts to educate the public about the importance of asbestos safety through a targeted website and by distributing information at community outreach events across the state. 

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