The growing problem of asbestos that has been affecting school across the city led the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) to call on Gov. Tom Wolf to declare a state of emergency.
The announcement of the request is expected during a news conference Thursday afternoon at the Cione Rec Center in Kensington. This will mark the second time the union has urged Gov. Wolf to declare a state of emergency.
The aggravation of the problem can be detected in the announcement made by the school district of two more Philadelphia schools closed due to asbestos. The schools affected are Alexander K. McClure Elementary School on 600 W. Hunting Park Avenue as well as Laura H. Carnell Elementary School on 1100 Devereaux Avenue will be closed Friday. McClure Elementary will also remain closed on Monday.
Asbestos has been an ongoing issue for Philadelphia schools this year. Pratt Head Start on North 22nd Street was closed in November while Benjamin Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy were closed in September.
So far, ten Philadelphia schools have been shut down during the last several months due to the harmful material.
According to PFT President Jerry Jordan, Gov. Wolf should employ “rainy day” funds to aid in immediate remediation efforts across the district.
He said in a press realease that “with a balance of more than $340 Million, the rainy day fund must be utilized for the emergency conditions we are encountering in our schools on a daily basis.”
Referring to the Governor´s proposal that would target the cleanup of lead and asbestos in schools, day cares, homes and public water systems, he said that “the Governor has taken the important step of proposing a $1 Billion plan for lead and asbestos remediation, and the PFT will continue to advocate for its passage.”
The news conference and a later public meeting will be held near Richmond Elementary School, which has not been closed but has had areas of the building blocked off due to asbestos remediation activities.
According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH),asbestos is a fibrous material that was commonly used in commercial products such as installation and fire proofing for decades. Its inhalation can cause life-threatening diseases including lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Each year, approximately 50,000 people in the United States die from asbestos-related diseases, and more than 100,000 people perish worldwide.
Ian A. Blair, a scientist at the Perelman School of Medicine explained in an Penn interview that “most of the Philadelphia schools have asbestos-insulated pipes. What happens is as the insulation ages, it becomes very friable and tends to break up, and you see deposits of asbestos fibers on floors and surfaces of rooms.”