The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday announced the publication of a non-technical manual to enable school officials, concerned parents and PTA organizations to identify asbestos hazards in the nation's schools.

EPA Administrator Douglas Costle said the manual will "help prevent children from exposure that could cause lung cancer, chronic lung disease or other crippling disease."

The manual, available free from EPA, follows an August 1978 warning by HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. that asbestos-containing materials sprayed on school walls, ceilings, structural components and pipes could pose a health hazard.

Costle estimated that 10,000 of the nation's 90,000 schools could contain asbestos materials.

"All schools should be checked," he said.

Costle emphasized, however, that not all asbestos materials pose a health hazard -- only those flaking from deterioration or damage that release asbestos fibers.

"Officials faced with an asbestos exposure problem may remedy it in one of three ways," Costle said.

"They may remove the material entirely, an expensive process that must be done according to strict safety rules. They may seal the asbestos with a sealant, or they may place a barrier, such as a suspended ceiling, between it and the children."

Costle said the manual could be used to look for asbestos problems in any building, but EPA's most immediate concern is schools.

EPA will also conduct regional seminars with school officials on the problems, Costle said.