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This week two more schools out of Philadelphia will close amid failed inspections and asbestos removal. Within the year, the Philadelphia school district has closed seven schools for asbestos remediation due to excessive limits of airborne asbestos within the buildings. Now, school officials will close Clara Barton Elementary and James J. Sullivan Elementary School, because inspectors found damaged asbestos within the premises.

Contractors will perform asbestos remediation work over two days amid the school closings. Upon completion of the abatement work, safety inspectors will test the school buildings, and school district officials will reinstate the start date of each school from the results of the inspections.

Prior To More School Closings Philadelphia Teachers Union Will File Suit

Almost a month before the two elementary schools closed this week, the Philadelphia teachers union announced it intended to sue the Philadelphia school district over failing to handle asbestos, lead, and mold issues which the school district has unproperly addressed the union claims.

Philadelphia Teachers Union Files First Environmental Hazard Lawsuit

 Legal Counsel for the union state that “ the lawsuit would be filed in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia and reference to the right to “a thorough and efficient system of public education” guaranteed in the Pennsylvania constitution.” This will be the first lawsuit the union has ever filed for environmental hazards. The action will also seek periodic testing at schools with environmental safety issues, the adoption of “best practices” for conducting inspections and public reporting of asbestos exposure, said union attorney, Deborah Willig.

District Officials Claim To Comply With Federal Law

Representatives say that Philadelphia school district officials claim to be compliant with federal law. These laws mandate air quality testing before and after asbestos remediation, and mandatory building inspections conducted every three years, which are performed by the school district, according to officials.

Union Members Say District Knows The Schools Are Hazardous

In response, union officials said: “The district has acknowledged that its schools’ conditions are hazardous and has developed district-wide health and safety standards applicable to asbestos testing and remediation,” the 45-page lawsuit reads. “However, [the district] has failed to comply with its own standards, despite years of complaints from the union as well as teachers, staff, and students who occupy district  buildings.”

Most Philadelphia District Schools Have Asbestos The school district does not deny the fact that most schools in the district contain asbestos. The asbestos found in these buildings were installed prior to the 21st century and have been found around throughout district buildings in several forms. Asbestos is a carcinogenic group of mineral fibers that, prior to the 1980s, were used in buildings for insulation, flooring, and sometimes ceilings.

For centuries, asbestos has been used in thousands of products and applications. On the other hand, when asbestos starts to deteriorate or crumble, the particles can become airborne, which makes them a serious health risk. When the airborne particles are inhaled the chance of lung disease, lung cancer, and mesothelioma can develop.

In relation, a retired teacher from the Philadelphia School district was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure from working inside a Philadelphia district school. Here, the diagnosed teacher was not part of the union suit and intended to file an action on her own accord.

The State Of Pennsylvania Wants To Appropriate $1Billion Dollars For School Remediation

Amidst all of the unfortunate events happening, the State of Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf proposed to allocate $1billion to remediate public schools during his address to the state this past month. Even though the Philadelphia teachers union is suing the school district, both parties have been receptive to a continued effort to work together during this crisis. School superintendent William Hite says, “ he is happy to accept all help and ready to have a meeting with the teachers union ‘tomorrow’ about getting more personnel working on the cleanup  efforts.”

Efforts Forming Against Asbestos Exposure

With more of these schools closing, there seems to be a conscious effort forming between school officials, community members, and union members to combat asbestos exposure. Also, the state of Pennsylvania appears to be taking a massive initiative to combat severe health issues Philadelphia faces with asbestos and other areas throughout the state. No matter where you live, people need to pull together instead of apart from each other when trying to solve an issue

Do Not Wait On Asbestos Exposure

If we are going to combat the issues concerning asbestos and its harmful effects, we all need to be aware of the importance of communicating with each other about what we know, see, and feel. No one will ever know right away if they have contracted mesothelioma, rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure, or if they have any complications from possible asbestos exposure that happened decades ago. Cancer, especially mesothelioma, can lie dormant for over thirty years or more. If you or a loved one feel like you are or may be suffering from the harmful effects of asbestos exposure, please contact an experienced asbestos attorney. 

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