The Oklahoma Department of Labor recently received $202,970 in funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) program, which will help protect state workers and school children from asbestos exposure.
Through AHERA, local education agencies are required to perform inspections in the school they manage, looking for building materials that contain asbestos. If found, those agencies must also prepare management plans to reduce the hazard. While asbestos is a dangerous substance, humans are only at risk of asbestos disease when exposed to it. Because of this, the EPA often does not recommend removing asbestos, as this can make a building more dangerous rather than less. Typically, the EPA recommends that asbestos is managed in-place, through a management plan that controls fiber release. The EPA only requires removing materials with asbestos when they are already likely to be disturbed, such as during renovation or demolition.
While AHERA requires education agencies to perform inspections and implement management plans, the program provides assistance in the form of on-site surveillance where asbestos is found and a training and accreditation program for those carrying out asbestos work.