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The Service Employees International Union has filed a rule-making petition with the Environmental Protection Agency intended to force the agency to establish rules on the levels of hazard and on removal requirements for asbestos in schools.

Earlier this year, the union conducted a survey of asbestos in the schools, which estimated that about 10 percent of all schools have hazardous asbestos. The union's members include 90,000 school employees.

At that time, the union accused the federal government of responding sluggishly to a potential hazard. There is no federal requirement that asbestos be removed from schools.

The petition filed last week, however, could establish such a requirement. The union has asked the agency to establish rules that would create standards to gauge whether a hazard exists, how it should be cleaned up, and how workers should be protected while cleaning it up.

The agency has 90 days to respond to the petition, after which the union may seek relief in the federal courts. Union officials have said that they will do so if the epa fails to act on its petition.

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