The Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently announced the launch of a new initiative to provide better protection against asbestos exposure.

According to a press release from the office of Attorney General Maura Healey published on March 1, this new initiative called “Healthy Buildings, Healthy Air” will focus on educating the public about the dangers of asbestos exposure. The initiative will also include partnerships with school districts and state agencies to ensure asbestos safety in schools and increase enforcement of improper asbestos handling.

“Asbestos can be found in many homes, schools, and workplaces, and if it is not handled properly it poses a serious health risk,” AG Healey said. “Too often, children, families, and workers are exposed to airborne asbestos fibers due to shoddy or unlicensed work, and many aren’t aware of the serious danger it poses. Our new initiative will focus on educating school districts on the dangers asbestos exposure can pose to children and employees and on taking action against those who put families and workers at risk from illegal asbestos work.”

Healey’s dedication to asbestos safety was prompted in part by a report published by Senator Edward Markey and Senator Barbara Boxer in December 2015 called “Failing the Grade: Asbestos in America’s Schools.” Here, the senators disclosed that roughly two-thirds of the school districts that responded to their survey stated that asbestos was present in their schools, yet less than 8% of those districts conduct periodic inspections. Senator Markey said, “We cannot let lack of awareness put families, workers, students and teachers at risk of asbestos exposure. We need to arm consumers with information about where asbestos can be found so they can avoid exposure, and create a more systemic and dedicated commitment to removing it from our neighborhoods, especially local schools.”

Now, AG Healey’s office will work with Massachusetts school districts to help them comply with asbestos exposure laws. The Attorney General’s office will also work with the Department of Labor Standards, the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the Massachusetts Facility Administrators’ Association, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, and the Massachusetts Association of School Building Officials to increase asbestos awareness and protections.

AG Healey has learned that the highest risk for asbestos exposure is seen in lower-income residents of Massachusetts, so her office has prioritized enforcement cases concerning asbestos violations in these areas. In December 2016, the AG’s office filed a lawsuit against a contractor, R.M. Technologies, Inc., after their workers allegedly improperly handled and abated asbestos during a project at Greater Lowell Technical High School. So far this month, The AG’s Environmental Protection Division has settled allegations with four other companies accused of illegally handling and storing asbestos materials.

While the actions of AG Maura Healey and other advocates may help to dramatically reduce the risk of asbestos exposure in the future, it is already too late for the 12,000 to 15,000 Americans who are expected to die from asbestos diseases like mesothelioma this year. If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with a disease associated with asbestos exposure, you could be entitled to compensation for your suffering and damages. For more information, please contact our asbestos attorneys for a free and confidential legal consultation.