Most Pennsylvanians understand the dangers of blue-collar work. This manual labor tests your physical skill as well as your ability to withstand physical stressors. Years ago, this work exposed people to incredibly harmful substances like asbestos and lead, causing mesothelioma and brain damage.

Since then, research has revealed the carcinogenic nature of asbestos, prompting regulations and limits. Though the U.S. has not completely banned asbestos, few industries still use the substance. Many older buildings still contain asbestos-based insulation, risking exposure as these buildings age. In late September, Pennsylvania law enforcement charged three former school officials for felony child endangerment. The three officials ignored systemic lead and asbestos exposure in several Pennsylvanian schools.

Officials ignored inspectors for years

Scranton school district officials first informed Superintendent Alexis Kirijan of high levels of lead in ten schools’ drinking water back in 2016. At the same time, inspectors identified dozens of areas of increased asbestos exposure in classrooms, restrooms and cafeterias. Alongside former Director of Operations Jeffrey Brazil and maintenance supervisor Joseph Slack, the school officials failed to act, allowing the dangerous conditions to linger.

The problems increased. Inspectors found over 150 drinking fountains containing lead and 74 other locations with high levels of asbestos exposure. A school principal e-mailed the superintendent about crumbling ceiling tiles and plaster in several classrooms. The charges allege that the officials attempted to hide the problem.

Both Kirijan and Brazil left their positions in mid-2019. Law enforcement officials immediately informed the new administration of the dangerous levels of exposure, prompting the charges.

Child endangerment charges present hefty punishments

All three state officials face both civil and criminal charges. A single count of felony child endangerment in Pennsylvania comes with five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. A defense attorney for the plaintiffs denounced the charges, claiming that without proof of exposure or injury, no crime took place.

Exposure to lead or asbestos requires expensive medical care. Those exposed to these harmful substances can bring their questions to a local attorney familiar with asbestos law.