Test Shows More than 10 Million Asbestos Fibers on Floor of Philly School
Staff members and others at Olney Elementary School told the School District of Philadelphia earlier this year that one of the most heavily traveled hallways in the aging school was full of hazardous asbestos fibers.
But four months after that initial complaint, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, the problem is worse than ever. And school is still in session!
Recent testing at the school, which is in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, revealed 10.7 million asbestos fibers per square centimeter, up from 8.5 million several months ago.
This latest result is more than 100 times higher than the level that health experts say should be cause for alarm.
This most recent finding, and other details and findings about hazardous conditions in Philadelphia schools, is part of an Inquirer and Daily News investigation entitled, “Toxic City: Sick Schools”, in which reporters from the two daily city papers “enlisted staffers at 19 of the district’s more run-down elementary schools to collect samples of suspected asbestos fibers, lead dust, mold spores, and water from drinking fountains,” the article explains.
An accredited laboratory, International Asbestos Testing Laboratories in Southern New Jersey, analyzed any materials that were collected.
Of course, when the alarming number of asbestos fibers at Olney Elementary was discovered on June 1, the reporters quickly contacted the district about this burgeoning problem.
However, district spokesperson Lee Whack refused to offer any detailed commentary about what steps would be taken to fix the problem. Instead, he told reporters via email that district officials would “look at the areas at Olney Elementary that have been mentioned.”
“The health and safety of students and staff will always be our top priority,” Whack added. “No single test can ever fully reflect the needs of our school communities.”
However, the Philadelphia teachers’ union and those who work inside the decrepit building aren’t sure that their safety is all that important to the district, or perhaps they would have addressed the problem at Olney months ago.
Arthur Steinberg, head of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund, says he finds the issue at Olney “highly disturbing” and believes that more effective oversight is needed.
And it’s not just Olney that has asbestos problems. Of the 19 schools tested, 11 had noticeable and concerning amounts of asbestos fibers in areas that are frequented by students, staff, and/or faculty, as well as visitors.
This includes classrooms, hallways, auditoriums, and gyms.
The article points out that many schools in the area have taken different steps when asbestos has been detected in their buildings.
Temple University, for example, relocated students and staff during a recent asbestos scare and a school in nearby Woodbridge, NJ closed in March after asbestos was found in several classrooms.
The School District of Philadelphia has announced no intention to close any of the schools in question.