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The American Federation of Teachers is encouraging its membership to put pressure on local authorities to remove asbestos from schools because, aft officials say, the federal government is not acting quickly enough to reduce the hazard.

At its annual convention in Washington, D.C., late last month, the union provided its members with a document called "Asbestos: A Time Bomb in Our Schools." The report outlines the scope of the problem and tells teachers what to do if they think their school contains asbestos. aft officials estimate that more than 648,000 school employees run the risk of being exposed to the substance.

"No effective federal program exists to protect children and teachers from asbestos and none of the current Congressional initiatives has proposed dollar figures anywhere near what is estimated to be a $1.4-billion cost for cleanup of U.S. schools," said Albert Shanker, president of the aft

"Local school boards are often forced to sidestep or delay handling the asbestos problem because of the extremely high cleanup costs, or,6worse yet, they hire unqualified contractors whose unprofessional removal techniques exacerbate the asbestos hazard," he said.

The union is setting up an asbestos task force to provide aft locals with resources, technical information, and suggestions for dealing with asbestos. Convention delegates adopted a policy resolution asking their leadership to: conduct a public-education campaign regarding the dangers of asbestos, establish a clearinghouse for locals to share information on asbestos projects, keep locals and state federations informed of changes in federal regulations regarding asbestos inspection and notification requirements, and work with other interested groups to remove or contain asbestos in schools.

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