Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) and Schools

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The Start of the School Year is Here

As we reach the end of August it is a bittersweet time for families as kids begin to return to school. Warm, outdoor summer nights change to new school routines and after-school activities. For many, new beginnings are associated with January 1st of each year and people often question why new school years don’t begin until the start of fall. The answer lies in our history.

School wasn’t mandatory for children until the late 1800s. Most children were required to work in fields and factories, meaning school often came second. During winter months, there was less to do in the workforce and children were able to attend school more regularly. But once May hit, children were needed to help prepare for the upcoming busy seasons. In order to increase the likelihood of the maximum number of children to be in attendance at school, the school year started in September and lasted through May.


There are over 130,000 public and private K-12 schools in the United States today. About half of all U.S schools were built between 1950 and 1969 – a time when asbestos was often desired as a prominent building material. Asbestos was used in schools in the form of cement sheets, ceiling tiles, wallboard, textured “popcorn” ceilings, duct work, pipe wrap insulation, boiler insulation, and vinyl flooring. For more information on asbestos exposure in schools.

Serling & Abramson, P.C. is proud to have represented over 300 school districts in the state of Michigan in a class-action lawsuit against numerous asbestos manufacturers and suppliers. The suit resulted in a recovery of over $120,000,000 to aid schools in safely removing asbestos products from over 2,000 school buildings across the state. Due to the hard work of Serling and Abramson, Michigan schools are safer for students, teachers, custodians, and visitors to the buildings.

After discovering the dangers of asbestos, Congress passed the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) in 1986 in an attempt to protect students and teachers from asbestos exposure in school buildings. AHERA requires schools to inspect their buildings for asbestos-containing materials, school custodians prepare and maintain asbestos management plans, designate and train an individual to oversee asbestos-related activities, and perform appropriate response actions to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards.


The law does NOT require schools to remove asbestos materials, as long as they remain in good condition. This is because asbestos-containing products that are not disturbed do not release the dust particles that are needed for asbestos diseases to develop. Schools that properly maintain and manage their buildings present little risk.

When the asbestos-containing products become damaged or worn down, that is when they can put school students and staff at risk of asbestos exposure. Because AHERA does not require the removal of asbestos-containing materials school custodians, and in rare cases, teachers or other school employees, who regularly work around asbestos products may have an increased risk of asbestos exposure. If you or someone you know has been exposed to asbestos in schools and have been diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma, fill out a free case evaluation to discuss your legal options.