Asbestos in Philly Schools Is an Outright Crisis

June 5, 2018

It’s not uncommon to see the lingering effects of asbestos exposure in older adults who worked in construction, for railroads, around shipyards, or on aircraft. However, it’s shocking to learn that our own Philadelphia youth may one day deal with asbestosis or mesothelioma simply because they received an education at district schools.

A recent The Inquirer article chronicled just how serious the issue has become. The author’s research noted that the asbestos dust level in one frequently used school closet was 50 times higher than samples taken post September 11, 2001, at apartments near the World Trade Center. When inhaled, asbestos fibers aren’t just irritants — they can become the foundation for a host of immediate and long-term health problems for Philly school students, teachers, volunteers, and vendors.

How Asbestos Became a Public Enemy

Once used as a revolutionary method of insulation, asbestos lost its luster by the 1970s when science discovered a link between airborne asbestos fibers and serious respiratory and other illnesses. Those who breathe in asbestos fibers for extended periods risk losing the elasticity in their lungs, leaving their lungs unable to perform. Consequently, asbestos is no longer used as insulation.

For decades, asbestos has become associated with pleural mesothelioma, a cancer found in and around the lungs and surrounding tissues, as well as in other parts of the body. Not only is it a painful condition but it can be fatal if not caught in its earliest stages. In fact, according to statistics gathered by, Pennsylvania is one of the nation’s five states with the highest mesothelioma-related annual mortality rates.

How PA’s Government Deals With Asbestos

In terms of the law, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) takes on the regulation and safe removal of asbestos found in commercial properties, presumably including our Philadelphia schools. However, the DEP does not have governance over single residences or properties that have four or fewer apartments. Plus, many municipalities have their own regulations to ensure that structures with asbestos are appropriately brought up to code.

Ironically, district representatives have not taken action to verify the claims of the independent testing that found asbestos dust within at least six schools. In the aforementioned piece, those same representatives felt that the asbestos issue was overblown and not of consequence. Thus, the future of the schools and our neighbors who learn and work there remains up in the air.

Legal Paths After Asbestos Exposure

Individuals who have already been diagnosed with asbestosis or mesothelioma may turn to members of the legal community who can often help with remediation and settlements. Although the average settlement amount for mesothelioma plaintiffs can exceed one million dollars, quite a bit depends on circumstances of exposure and other factors, such as the statue of limitations once diagnosed.

If you’re concerned about your own or a loved one’s asbestos-related health problems and want to speak with an attorney, contact our seasoned advocates to set up a free initial consultation. Together, we can shed light on asbestos and make sure that we and our children don’t have to experience the challenges of living with chronic or fatal conditions caused by close, continuous proximity to asbestos fibers.

For nearly 40 years, the injury attorneys at Wapner Newman have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Offering risk-free consultations, our team works hard on our contingency-fee cases, never taking a fee until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. If we don’t win, you don’t pay. Contact us today to discuss your situation.