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FOF Coalition: $100 Million Needed NOW for Lead, Asbestos

September 11, 2019

PFT president Jerry Jordan at press conference

A veteran Philadelphia educator has been diagnosed with asbestos-induced Mesothelioma, raising serious concerns about lead and asbestos levels in Philly’s public schools.

PHILADELPHIA–In response to news that a longtime Philadelphia school teacher has been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, members of the Fund Our Facilities Coalition held a press conference at the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers offices to call for an immediate $100 million investment to perform lead and damaged asbestos abatement in Philadelphia’s public schools. The figure makes up the bulk of the $170 million the Coalition has been calling for since May.

Watch the full September 11 press conference

Mesothelioma can be caused by long-term exposure to microscopic asbestos fibers, which exist in many of Philadelphia’s school buildings. Coalition members are quick to point out that there’s no definitive proof that the teacher was infected by her school building.

“But,” said PFT President Jerry Jordan, “The fact that we must seriously consider the possibility that the building is the culprit should alarm each one of us. This is a systemic issue with urgent needs that we must address. Disturbed asbestos has been observed and reported in schools across the district.”

Jordan announced that the PFT plans to work with the union’s environmental scientist and medical professionals to begin an investigation into potential cancer clusters in Philadelphia schools.

More: News coverage from Fund Our Facilities Press Conference, September 11, 2019

Inquirer: Teachers’ union investigating a possible cancer link to Philly schools, warns of hazards

6ABC: Philadelphia teachers’ union calling for asbestos, lead removal in all schools

WHYY: Did asbestos in a Philly school cause a teacher to get cancer? It’s complicated.

KYW: Teachers’ union warns of asbestos in Philly schools after member gets mesothelioma

NBC10: Union Wants $100M for Asbestos Removal From Philly Schools After Teacher’s Cancer Diagnosis

CBS3: Union Calls For Asbestos Cleanup In All City Schools After Philadelphia Teacher Diagnosed With Cancer

The Notebook: PFT, officials demand $100 million to clean up city schools after teacher’s cancer diagnosis

Fox 29: Union calls for immediate $100 million for asbestos and lead abatement in Philly schools 

Coalition partner Rep. Brian Sims, one of many Coalition members at today’s press conference, added, “We’re talking about making sure that lead paint isn’t flaking off the ceiling onto children. We’re talking about making sure that fiberglass and mold aren’t attacking the health and safety of 10-year-olds. We’re talking about making sure that asbestos–one of the most dangerous compounds to human exposure– isn’t killing our kids, isn’t killing our neighbors and isn’t killing our educators.”

“This is a gut punch,” said Philly AFL-CIO President Pat Eiding, “As someone who’s spent a long time working in the construction industry, I’ve seen too often the effects of this catastrophic disease on my friends and union family. To know that every day, teachers and students walk into environments that can literally poison them is simply a disgrace.”

More from Fund Our Facilities Coalition members on today’s press conference and the call for an immediate $100 million investment

State Senator Larry Farnese (SD1):
“The teachers who give their lives in the service of educating our young people should not be risking their lives when they go to work. This $100 million is desperately needed to protect educators and students, and we cannot delay.”

State Senator Tina Tartaglione (SD2):
“Picture this: you have a child in grade school. Their lungs are still developing. And they’re exposed to asbestos. We are doing that every single day that our children go to an elementary school, a middle school, or a high school. Our teachers have to be in that classroom. We can’t let this happen. One case means we have to check every single school and remediate it.”

Representative Elizabeth Fiedler (HD184):
“Our children and teachers are at risk of getting sick and dying prematurely because of the toxic lead and asbestos that surround them in school. This is injustice and cruelty, and it can not stand.”

Councilmember Mark Squilla (Council District 1):
“The students, faculty, and staff in our schools deserve to be in healthy environments that are free from toxins and conducive to learning. I support funding to remediate asbestos and lead in every school and am committed to working with my Coalition partners to fight for and find an immediate influx of this sorely needed investment.”

Councilmember Derek Green, At-Large:
“Learning about the teacher being diagnosed with this disease strikes me in a very personal way. This is something that is urgent. This is an issue that pains me as a parent, as the child of a retired PFT member of 30 years. This coalition has come together to work on this critical and urgent issue.”

Councilmember Helen Gym, At-Large:
“Our crumbling schools are the result of generations of divestment in low-income communities, particularly communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by lead poisoning and asthma. We can change that. A school’s staff and students know the building’s problems better than anyone else, and their health and safety should be the driving force behind our investments.”

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