Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Over a decade has passed since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first identified asbestos as a health threat to the nation's school children in 1978. The concern over asbestos in schools prompted numerous responses to this problem, including legislative solutions, litigation, and the birth of a new industry to inspect, control, and abate the hazard. The results have been mixed at best. School officials, legislators, and legal commentators have criticized much of the legislation as ineffective; the litigation has added cases to a legal docket already overburdened by personal injury suits brought by individuals against asbestos manufacturers and liability insurance suits brought by manufacturers against their insurers.' Furthermore, the abatement industry has often created a greater hazard than previously existed, as "rip and skip" contractors have victimized school districts with improper abatements and cleanups. ...

This Note discusses the problem of asbestos in schools in the context of AHERA, and the theories of recovery used in school board litigation. Part II presents a brief discussion of the hazards of asbestos.Part III examines AHERA and the regulations promulgated under it,devoting particular attention to the actions required of school authorities and changes in industry practice that the Act mandates. Part IV discusses the various theories of recovery used by school districts in litigation to recover abatement costs from manufacturers.

Part V concludes that while AHERA supplies schools with much needed guidance for responding to the presence of asbestos and should enhance the quality of the abatement work performed by setting contractor accreditation standards, an even greater response is needed. AHERA relies too heavily on an industry the legislators blamed for much of the asbestos threat in schools-the asbestos abatement industry. The government should not force schools to rely on many of the same contractors deemed incapable of properly performing abatements and on litigation to provide funding for this problem