Philly School District Has Huge Toxic Asbestos Problem

Jeffrey S. Gross

The Philadelphia School District finds itself embroiled in the national issue of toxic asbestos in U.S. schools. The remediation of damaged asbestos materials has fully or partially shut down 11 Philadelphia schools since the end of 2019. The school district plans to spend $14 million to fix the crisis.

Asbestos exposure may lead to mesothelioma—a deadly form of cancer. Jeffrey S. Gross and Patrick W. Kenny have spent more than 20 years representing injured workers. If you suffer from mesothelioma or another occupational disease, contact the Philadelphia work injury attorneys at Gross & Kenny LLP to discuss the compensation you deserve.

A Big Problem

Because asbestos was once common fire-resistant insulation, older schools are likely at risk for toxic asbestos. Nearly 80% of Philadelphia schools were built before 1978. Experts believe asbestos exposure may have already caused future health consequences.

The superintendent of schools recently pledged not to approve any future construction projects without assessing for asbestos or other environmental hazards. He also explained that to remediate all the school district’s lead and asbestos contamination, they will need $125 million in new funding over the next five years.

In 2018, The Philadelphia Inquirer investigated the environmental hazards at local schools. At the time, it was estimated the problem would cost $3 billion and 10 years.

In 2019, a 51-year-old teacher, Lea DiRusso, was diagnosed with mesothelioma after a 30-year career teaching at two asbestos-contaminated Philadelphia schools. An $850,000 settlement was signed off on by the Philadelphia School Board.

As a $37 million renovation project started, workers began to find damaged asbestos materials in several schools. More findings happened in more schools, leading to the closing, and relocating thousands of students and teachers.

The Philadelphia schools that were shuttered either partially or fully for remediation after finding damaged asbestos materials or air sample tests revealing dangerous levels of airborne asbestos include:

  • Alexander K. McClure Elementary
  • Benjamin Franklin High School
  • Charles W. Henry School
  • Clara Barton Elementary
  • Francis Hopkinson Elementary
  • Franklin Learning Center
  • James J. Sullivan Elementary
  • Laura H. Carnell Elementary
  • Science Leadership Academy
  • T.M. Peirce Elementary
  • Pratt Early Childhood Center

Parents, students, teachers, and staff protested outside of some of these schools, calling for safer conditions. A lawsuit was filed by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers for insufficient asbestos testing and negligence for not taking appropriate actions.

Shortly after, the city of Philadelphia hired Arc Environmental, an environmental firm, to help the school district establish asbestos abatement protocols.

When Should I Contact A Lawyer?

Asbestos is not commonly used anymore, but the years of exposure may have ramifications for workers for decades to come. The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, and the disease’s symptoms typically appear 15 or more years after exposure.

It is important to understand your legal options. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, including medical care and disability income, and you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the employer that allowed the exposure.

If you or someone you love has developed mesothelioma, contact the Philadelphia work injury attorneys at Gross & Kenny LLP for a free consultation of your case by clicking here or calling 215-512-1500.

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