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How asbestos can be harmful for your health

How asbestos can be harmful for your health
How asbestos can be harmful for your health 02:44

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The School District of Philadelphia says its making progress in dealing with asbestos that's forced the closing of several schools.

Parents, students and teachers remain worried about potential health dangers at city schools. 

Three Philly schools are dealing with asbestos. 

The District announced Monday night Simon Gratz High School won't reopen Tuesday. 

School Building 21 is offering virtual sessions as of Monday, and we'll hear more about the situation Tuesday. 

The third school, Gratz Middle School,  reopened Monday after the school district says an asbestos issue was addressed. 

But School Building 21 – remains closed because of asbestos. 

On Monday, the teachers union president talked about the ongoing issue of asbestos in schools.

"We are relentlessly focused on ensuring real solutions to a crisis that simply can not stand," Jerry Jordan, the President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said.  

 Asbestos is an insulation that was used in the construction of older buildings.

"It is frankly a serious problem in terms of the school system," Dr. Arthur Frank, of Drexel University, said. 

Frank is an environmental and occupational health expert who's been researching asbestos for decades.

"Many buildings built in the 20th century prior to about 1970,75 are very likely to have asbestos," Frank said.

 Frank said when asbestos is damaged particles get into the air and when inhaled it can cause lung damage, and a rare kind of cancer called  mesothelioma 

"There's no known safe level of exposure to asbestos with regard to the development of cancer," Frank said.  

But research shows even with prolonged exposure only 2 to 10% of people develop mesothelioma.

Symptoms can take 20 to 60 years to show up. 

"The mere presence of asbestos in a building doesn't mean it's in a condition that's harmful," Frank said. 

Frank says while remediating is critical, asbestos can be in remote locations. It's usually only dangerous when it's flaking in areas that are heavily used. 

On Monday at City Hall, elected officials said Philadelphia's public schools have a number of serious hazards more than just asbestos, including lead and rodents. 

Before finding more funding sources for repairs, they want a plan of action from the school district.  

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