Exposed asbestos has forced two Philadelphia, Pennsylvania schools to close. The asbestos was discovered during renovations, according to the School District of Philadelphia.
The asbestos, the district said, was found at Benjamin Franklin High School around air ducts in the boiler room. Additionally, asbestos was found around ducts in a common area of the Science Leadership Academy (SLA), which shares property with Benjamin Franklin High. That common area is currently under construction, according to the district.
Inspectors discovered the asbestos during an environmental inspection which was carried out by the teacher’s union and the district. Inspectors tested the air for asbestos fibers and also checked additional ducts.
Fibers were discovered, the district said, but the test results found that levels were in the acceptable range set by the Department of Health. Still, the district decided to close the buildings through Thursday to allow for remediation work to take place.
While the schools are closed, asbestos abatement will be carried out in damaged areas of SLA’s commons. The abatement project in the boiler room will be put on hold until the occupied areas have been fixed.
During this time, the district and teacher’s union will carry out testing in other areas of the building to “rule out the presence of airborne asbestos fibers.”
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers will meet soon to determine whether it’s safe to reopen the building on Thursday.
News of the asbestos discovery comes at a time of heightened concern, as a long-time teacher at Meredith Elementary as recently diagnosed with mesothelioma. Union leaders and lawmakers say that it will cost $100 million to fix all of the asbestos and lead problems in Philadelphia’s schools.
Asbestos is likely to be found in any school constructed before 1980. The fibrous material was woven into ceiling materials, pipe insulation and even floor tiles.