The Philadelphia School District released an interactive map of asbestos removal projects throughout the district’s schools. Growing concerns of asbestos throughout schools got national attention early in the year. Now, the city is ready to provide funding to eliminate the toxin from schools.
Asbestos Removal Map Released by Philadelphia School District
Earlier this month, Philadelphia launched an interactive dashboard indicating the location of all asbestos construction projects in the school district dating back to 2016. The map lets users track the estimated completion dates at certain sites, along with other school-specific information from the Department of Public Health.
Schools throughout Philadelphia and the United States face concerns about asbestos each school year. When inhaled or ingested, asbestos can increase the risk of serious health issues, including cancer.
The map contains over 1,700 active projects. The city categorizes around 400 sites as “major projects.”
Councilman Proposes $10M in Funding For Removal
Derek Green, a Philadelphia Councilman, introduced an ordinance to provide $10 million for asbestos removal in schools across the district. The councilman cited asbestos, lead, and other environmental issues currently afflicting school buildings.
According to a local source, a Philadelphia school teacher who was recently diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease prompted the remediation proposal. Most schools built before the 1980s used asbestos in some form of insulation, flooring, roofing, and other major building components.
Regulations now require schools to make plans that address the existence and removal of the toxin, according to the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). Teachers exposed to asbestos over the course of long careers risk developing mesothelioma, asbestosis, or other diseases. With most Philadelphia schools containing asbestos, the coalition estimates the cost of lead and asbestos removal and other repairs could exceed $170 million.
Councilman Green is a supporter of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ coalition, called Fund our Facilities. The alliance of elected leaders, labor organizations, and community groups throughout the state work to secure funding for school building improvements. Other members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers hope the City Council will quickly pass the legislation of additional funding.
Asbestos Remediation Recurrent in Philadelphia Schools
Schools throughout the district have active asbestos problems, prompting the temporary closure of some. In 2019, five Philadelphia schools closed due to potential exposure to toxins. Since then, other schools were closed, including Carnell Elementary, Clara Barton Elementary, Francis Hopkinson Elementary, and T.M. Pierce Elementary.
The issue of asbestos exposure at school is not new. Closures due to toxins date back nearly 50 years. The large exodus of middle-class families to the suburbs in the 1970s left poor children remaining in dilapidated, asbestos-filled schools. A general lack of awareness and funding sanctioned asbestos exposure among students and teachers for decades.
The Julia R. Masterman magnet school delayed the start of school earlier this year after concerns of asbestos exposure. Ongoing building improvements prompted backlash from parents and teachers over the school’s safety plan. According to some parents, the school was not clear enough about the extent of asbestos.