J Public Health Manag Pract. 2022 Sep 5. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000001549. Online ahead of print.
CONTEXT: The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) became a law in 1986, and the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) was mandated to promulgate rules to regulate the inspection, management, and abatement of asbestos-containing building materials (ACBM) in schools. This study describes 10 years (2008-2017) of AHERA compliance site inspection data conducted by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH).
OBJECTIVES: To establish the level to which inspected NJ schools comply with AHERA regulations, to characterize compliance deficiencies including those that may lead to increased asbestos exposure risk to students and school employees, and to determine whether age, type, and geographic location of school impacted the likelihood of noncompliance.
DESIGN: Information collected during 456 unique inspections between 2008 and 2017 was analyzed.
SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Inspections were conducted at public and private schools in New Jersey. These included elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as charter and vocational/technical schools.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Descriptive statistics and multiple logistic regression modeling of 3 factors, school type, geographical region, and school age.
RESULTS: NJDOH inspectors found damage to friable ACBM in 50% (n = 229) of the schools and fiber release episodes in 27% of inspections (n = 121). The case of schools failing to attach warning labels on or immediately adjacent to ACBM was the most frequently noted compliance deficiency over the 10-year period. The modeling output showed that compliance was associated with the type of school and geographical region.
CONCLUSIONS: Inspected schools during the 10-year period were in serious noncompliance with AHERA regulations. This included deficiencies that demonstrate a potential exposure to asbestos such as missing ACBM in management plans, damaged ACBM, lack of protection of short-term workers and custodial staff, and the identification of fiber release episodes. Modeling results of specific school characteristics can help direct limited resources to mitigate potential asbestos exposures.