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Asbestos-Tainted School Reopens

Students and staff returned to a South Philadelphia school that was abruptly shut down over possible asbestos poisoning concerns.

“We feel great about being back. It was time,” Kimberly Sollberger, a parent and teacher at Southwark, said. “I think the children lost a lot of instructional time once again, and somehow they managed to work it out.” Since the temporary closure, students have transitioned from virtual learning to two temporary classrooms. The shutdown came after workers in the school found dust and debris in the attic that potentially contained asbestos.

Southwark was the first Philadelphia School District building to close in the 2023-24 school year. Six schools closed in the 2022-23 year because of damaged asbestos.

Asbestos Exposure Illnesses

No one knows how many people were exposed to asbestos at any of these schools. Asbestos exposure victims do not show physical symptoms of asbestosis or other serious illnesses for at least fifty years after exposure.

Asbestosis is a serious lung disease that is usually fatal. Toxic asbestos fibers burn tissue in the lungs, specifically in narrow breathing passages. When the singed tissue scars, the new scar tissue blocks these airways. As a result, many asbestosis victims almost literally suffocate.

The aforementioned physical symptoms include a dry, hacking cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath even at rest. The time delay is so long, and the connection so remote (most people in their 70s barely remember where they attended elementary school, let alone the quality of the air they breathed) that most doctors do not connect the dots.

The resulting delay limits treatment options. In fact, in many cases, the only option is a risky complete lung transplant.

Other asbestos-exposure illnesses, such as mesothelioma, are much the same. Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of heart-lung cancer. Mostly because doctors must play from behind in terms of medical treatments, mesothelioma’s five-year survival rate is less than 10%.

Asbestos and Schools

Over half the nation’s schools were built before 1980 when asbestos use was widespread. Because of its low cost and high efficiency, most school districts used asbestos throughout school buildings, especially in the insulation and HVAC systems.

The high efficiency and low cost prompted school districts to overlook the adverse health effects mentioned above. Workers were directly exposed to toxic asbestos fibers. Students, staff, and visitors were indirectly exposed. Workers typically used chrysotile (white) asbestos, a crumbly substance that breaks apart very rapidly. Toxic fibers and dust float through hairline cracks and into the air.

The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act bans asbestos in public and private schools. The ban is easy to enforce in new construction projects. Existing buildings are another story. AHERA requires school districts to conduct ambient air tests and abate asbestos as appropriate. However, the law included no compliance funds. Cash-strapped school districts cannot afford to hire expensive contractors for air tests, let alone more expensive abatement contractors.

When bureaucrats fail to protect children, a nationwide asbestos exposure lawyer picks up the baton and obtains the compensation these victims need and deserve.

Work With a Dedicated Attorney

Mesothelioma victims need and deserve significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced nationwide mesothelioma lawyer, contact the Throneberry Law Group. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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