DALLAS - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded nearly $150,000 to the Oklahoma Department of Labor to support programs to reduce asbestos exposure in schools. The funding is part of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act's Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act Cooperative Agreement.

"Protecting children, especially where they learn, is one of the most important facets of EPA's mission," said Regional Administrator Ken McQueen. "The Oklahoma Department of Labor's partnership will help reduce the threat of asbestos for students, teachers, and school workers."

EPA's grant of $148,699 will support the Department of Labor's compliance monitoring programs to prevent or eliminate risks to people's health and the environment associated with asbestos exposure. The grant will help fund asbestos inspections at public and private schools in support of federal regulatory requirements to protect students and school employees from asbestos exposure.

Asbestos has been used in construction materials and manufactured goods, and for insulation and as a fire retardant. Materials that contain asbestos can release fibers into the air during use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling, allowing human exposure to occur.

Exposure to asbestos increases the risk of developing lung disease. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects. The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act and its regulations require public school districts and nonprofit schools including charter schools and schools affiliated with religious institutions to inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material and prepare management plans and to take action to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards.

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