As shared yesterday by PFT leadership, one of our fellow union members has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer directly linked to asbestos exposure. There is a very real possibility that this exposure came from the teacher’s time in district schools.
How At-Risk Is My School?
As a part of their “Toxic Schools” special report, The Philadelphia Inquirer tabulated incidents of damaged asbestos and other health threats in all district buildings. 175 schools have some asbestos present in their building, and there are 46 schools that had 20 or more incidents of damaged asbestos in their building -- which increases the chance of exposure.
Is your school on the 20+list? Check this spreadsheet to find out.
What Protections Exist for Asbestos?
According to the EPA, all public schools are required to do the following under the Federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA.)
- Perform an original inspection to determine whether asbestos-containing materials are present and then re-inspect asbestos-containing material in each school every three years. You can view your school’s most recent report on the district website.
- Develop, maintain, and update an asbestos management plan and keep a copy at the school
- Provide yearly notification to parent, teacher, and employee organizations on the availability of the school's asbestos management plan and any asbestos-related actions taken or planned in the school
- Designate a contact person to ensure the responsibilities of the public school district or the non-profit school are properly implemented
- Perform periodic surveillance of known or suspected asbestos-containing building material
- Ensure that trained and licensed professionals perform inspections and take response actions
- Provide custodial staff with asbestos-awareness training
Many schools have had construction done over the summer -- were you and your families notified, and did the work follow AHERA guidelines?
If your school does have asbestos present -- have appropriate “response actions” been taken?
If the answer to ANY of these questions is no, reply to this email ASAP and we will help you take action to protect the health of you and your school community!
How To Get The Money for Asbestos Abatement
We are calling on the School District of Philadelphia to immediately adhere completely to the AHERA. In a press conference, the PFT has called for $100 million in funding to address this specific issue -- we are continuing our call for City Council to end to the 10 year tax abatement to fund this demand, which is a continuation of our petition work from last year.
We are also asking for the school district to spend the money exclusively on addressing health concerns, before other construction projects or district initiatives.
What else can you do?
We’ll be in touch soon with more plans for action. In the meantime, make sure you look up your school’s asbestos status, check with your administration about whether correct protocols are being followed, and inform your colleagues about your rights under AHERA.