Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, and other several other city officials said they would begin focusing on the removal of hazardous materials, including lead paint, mold, and asbestos, from the city’s schools during the months ahead. The project will include clean-up of 57 local school buildings set to allot $15.6 million toward the remediation.
Roosevelt Elementary School in the East Germantown portion of Philadelphia held a press conference concerning the matter at which Governor Wolf pledged, “The safety of our children should always be a priority and our schools must be healthy environments where students and teachers can focus on learning and building bright futures. The combination of this state and district funding will make the classrooms and hallways safer at dozens of schools and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in the city.”
Pennsylvania will take care of $7.6 million for lead paint remediation at 40 of the schools identified, while the remaining $8 million will come from the school district for lead paint, mold, and asbestos remediation. Almost all of the schools in Philadelphia were constructed prior to 1978 when lead paint, found to cause many deadly health ailments, was federally banned from use in residential properties. A media investigation a little over a month ago also discovered that more than half of the buildings contained other hazardous materials as well, including asbestos and mold.
Inhalation of asbestos fibers has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. Mesothelioma, a somewhat rare form of cancer that most often affects the thin linings of the organs in the chest and abdomen, has also been found to be closely linked with asbestos exposure. Most of the time these cancers do not appear until years – sometimes decades – later, after an individual has been around the material. Asbestos was officially banned in 1989. Many older buildings still contain it, however, which is harmful once exposed, such as during periods of demolition.
Exposure to black mold can cause many respiratory problems. If one is exposed to mold long enough, it can be fatal. Many individuals are also allergic to mold, and thus, can develop a chronic cough, runny nose, or chest pain in its presence.
“I have been a lead poisoning prevention and awareness advocate for years, but I didn’t think I would ever experience it first-hand,” said State Rep. Donna Bullock. “Several years ago, my youngest son was tested and found to have had lead in his blood. Luckily, it was caught early, and he was able to get treatment. I cannot stress enough the importance of testing our children early. I’m glad to see that we are taking a proactive approach to tackle this epidemic and protect our children.”
Schools Superintendent Dr. William H. Hite added, “The health and safety of our students is critical. No matter where they live, our children deserve to learn in vibrant spaces that are welcoming and modernized. We are excited to be able to accelerate our previously planned summer work so that we can make the major renovations and improvements that will best serve our school communities.”