With elementary and middle school teachers ranking among the professionals most at risk for asbestos-related diseases like malignant mesothelioma, asbestos remediation needs to be a top concern for school district administrators. But if the School District of Philadelphia is any measure of whether appropriate action is being taken, there is significant cause for worry. According to a recent report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the district’s successful efforts at protecting students from lead were pursued without addressing the city school’s equally concerning asbestos crisis.
Asbestos abatement is an essential protection action meant to guard against the risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, and it is particularly important in America’s school buildings. Most of these structures were erected prior to the 1980s, when asbestos was still in constant use in public buildings, and the Philadelphia schools have been shown to have alarming levels of asbestos fibers in the air and many surfaces. A recent evaluation showed that there are several problems contributing to the issue, including inadequate training of the workers who are responsible for the school’s infrastructure and cleanup, poor work by contractors, and general mismanagement and failure to provide appropriate supervision. Specific instances of asbestos being haphazardly pulled out of classrooms, carried through the school or left on the floor for later cleanup abound, and professionals are expressing concern about employees and the students themselves. According to Marilyn Howard, a physician and the director of community outreach and engagement at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, “It is very important to not underestimate the very real cancer exposure that could happen for children who are exposed in a school and perhaps repeatedly over the course of being there for six years or more.”
In order to minimize the risk of mesothelioma, federal law requires that school districts provide at least two hours of “asbestos awareness training” to custodians, maintenance workers and district building engineers, but in the instances of mishandling cited by the local newspaper, the employees were unaware that they were looking at asbestos.
Though much is known about the dangers of asbestos and the risks of mesothelioma, an alarming number of people remain unaware and at risk. If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos and you need information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.