FOR 20 YEARS, from the 1950s to the 1970s, asbestos was used as a fireproofing agent in America's school systems. Today, the presence of the potentially cancer-causing material is igniting fires of concern across the country.
Parental anxiety, boycotting of classes, and the closing of school buildings in many communities forced the Environmental Protection Agency to mandate the inspection of all elementary and secondary public and private institutions for asbestos-containing materials. By federal law, the inspections must be carried out by May 9,1988, and the implementation of management plans for the removal of any friable asbestos must begin by July 9, 1989.
Children's exposure to asbestos in the schools naturally is of special concern to pediatricians. Higher activity and breathing rates, more time spent close to the floor where fibers accumulate, and natural curiosity or mischievousness may lead children to seek contact with deteriorating surfaces in school buildings. The American