How asbestos can be harmful to health

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia school district says it is making strides on dealing with asbestos, which has forced several schools to close.

Parents, students and teachers remain concerned about potential health hazards in city schools.

Three Philly schools deal with asbestos.

The district announced Monday night that Simon Gratz High School will not reopen Tuesday.

School Building 21 is offering virtual sessions starting Monday and we will hear more about the situation on Tuesday.

The third school, Gratz Middle School, reopened Monday after the school district said it had addressed an asbestos issue.

But school building 21 – remains closed because of asbestos.

On Monday the president of the teachers’ union spoke about the ongoing issue of asbestos in schools.

“We are relentlessly focused on finding real solutions to a crisis that is simply unbearable,” said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Asbestos is an insulation that was used in the construction of older buildings.

“It’s honestly a serious problem in terms of the school system,” said Dr. Arthur Frank from Drexel University.

Frank is an environmental and occupational health practitioner who has researched asbestos for decades.

“Many buildings built in the 20th century before about 197075 are very likely to have asbestos,” Frank said.

Frank said when asbestos is damaged, particles become airborne and if inhaled can cause lung damage and a rare cancer called mesothelioma

“There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos in terms of causing cancer,” Frank said.

But research shows that even with prolonged exposure, only 2% to 10% of people will develop mesothelioma.

READ :  Mesothelioma lawsuit against Avon ends with jury awarding $52.1 million in damages

It can take 20 to 60 years for symptoms to appear.

“The mere presence of asbestos in a building does not mean it is in a harmful condition,” Frank said.

Frank says while remediation is critical, asbestos can be present in remote locations. It usually only becomes dangerous if it flakes off in heavily used areas.

On Monday, elected officials at City Hall said Philadelphia’s public schools face a number of serious hazards beyond asbestos, including lead and rodents.

Before they find another source of funding for repairs, they want an action plan from the school district.

Stephanie Stahl