Interview: Addressing the Issue of Asbestos in US Schools

Awareness & Research
Reading Time: 3 mins
Publication Date: 10/14/2019
Fact Checked
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Reviewed is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource

The Mesothelioma Center at has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

About The Mesothelioma Center at

  • Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
  • Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
Learn More About Us


"My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family."
Mesothelioma patient’s daughter
  • Google Review Rating
  • BBB Review Rating

How to Cite’s Article


Mauney, M. (2021, August 30). Interview: Addressing the Issue of Asbestos in US Schools. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from


Mauney, Matt. "Interview: Addressing the Issue of Asbestos in US Schools.", 30 Aug 2021,


Mauney, Matt. "Interview: Addressing the Issue of Asbestos in US Schools." Last modified August 30, 2021.

School crossing sign in Philadelphia

Legacy asbestos, or asbestos-containing materials in buildings built before 1980, is a growing concern in the United States.

Nowhere is this issue more apparent than in America’s schools.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss asbestos in schools on the Tone and Tenor radio show on WWDB-AM in Philadelphia, where asbestos removal work recently displaced students at Ben Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy.

There are an estimated 150 schools in the School District of Philadelphia that contain asbestos materials, according to Asbestos Workers Local 14, a labor union.

In 2018, the district inspected and cleaned seven elementary schools found to have alarming levels of asbestos fibers in the air. One sixth-grade classroom had 10.7 million fibers, according to an investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Asbestos Still Prevalent in America’s Schools

Roughly one-third of America’s schools were built prior to 1980, before the federal government heavily restricted asbestos use in construction.

Asbestos materials are virtually safe when they are in good condition and well maintained, but the toxic fibers from these products can become airborne and deadly when disturbed.

School maintenance workers can unknowingly dislodge asbestos fibers during routine work, leading to dangerous exposure for students, teachers and staff members. Asbestos exposure is the main cause of mesothelioma, a terminal cancer.

Philadelphia is among the large metropolitan cities in the northeast that are seeing the effects of ubiquitous asbestos use in schools for decades.

Aging infrastructure and a lack of funds to properly manage the asbestos-containing materials adds to the problem.

Pennsylvania is one of 29 states under federal jurisdiction of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), a program that saw funding dry up in the 1990s.

Only 13% of states under AHERA implementation performed required asbestos inspections from 2011 to 2015, according to a report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General.

With no funding for safety inspections and regular maintenance, asbestos continues to threaten students and teachers at Philadelphia schools.

Often, the public only becomes aware of the issue in extreme circumstances such as the case with Ben Franklin High and Science Leadership Academy, where large asbestos removal projects displaced students and staff to temporary locations.

Asbestos Removal Costly & Usually Last Resort

Large asbestos removal projects are tedious and costly, which is why abating legacy asbestos in America’s schools is often a last resort.

Schools typically follow an asbestos management plan where materials are maintained in good condition.

It is easier and cheaper to paint over and seal damaged drywall or asbestos cement than completely remove an interior wall of a classroom. Damaged pipes or boiler coverings may be encapsulated or enclosed to prevent fiber release.

While removing asbestos is the only permanent solution for controlling and preventing future exposure, it can potentially be more dangerous than other management methods. Demolition and major renovations can disturb more materials and increase exposure.

Parents who are concerned about asbestos issues in their child’s school can call their principal or school superintendent to request the school’s asbestos management plan.

These management plans are required to have inspection protocols and contact information for a designated, trained person who is appointed to oversee asbestos-related activities in the school system.

The problem of asbestos in our local schools isn’t going away anytime soon. The most important thing you can do is be proactive. Find out if asbestos issues exist in your local schools and stay on top of what is being done about it.