Asbestos in New York City public school buildings--public policy: is there a scientific basis?

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1994 Oct;20(2):161-9. doi: 10.1006/rtph.1994.1067.


The most recent of New York City's asbestos emergencies occurred in the late summer of 1993. It prevented schools from opening that fall, precipitated much media excitement, and caused a flurry of widespread abatement activities. This resulted in large measure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's subjective school building inspection policy concerning identification of asbestos hazards in buildings and the subsequent Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act mandate for inspection. Data on concentrations of asbestos in the air, important for the calculation of risk to building occupants, were not required and therefore not obtained, as part of the abatement strategy or priority setting. Based on fiber-in-air measurements obtained elsewhere, the calculated risk to NYC school children, using the most pessimistic models, was less than six excess cancer deaths per million lifetimes equivalent to smoking less than a dozen cigarettes in a lifetime. The NYC administration responded to pressure from parent groups concerned with perceived asbestos risks to their children by closing the schools. The hysteria occurred because much of EPA's policy lacked a scientific basis for risk evaluation and assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Asbestos / adverse effects*
  • Asbestos / analysis*
  • Construction Materials
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • New York
  • Public Policy*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Schools*
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency


  • Asbestos