Every week during the school year, teacher Lea DiRusso climbed on a chair and hung her students’ best work on a clothesline strung between two old heating pipes. As she tugged the line down to clip on artwork or an essay, it tightened, rubbing against the insulation and often sending down fine white flakes.
Her 90-year-old school, Meredith Elementary, had leaking pipes, damaged asbestos insulation, and peeling paint, but DiRusso brightened every corner of Classroom 206.5: homey curtains, peel-and-stick stained-glass patterns on the windows, classical music playing low.
“When you come into a room on a Monday morning, and you’re starting to set up, and you see dust across your desk, or dust on the ground, or a ceiling tile fell, as a teacher, this is your pride and joy, it’s your room,” said DiRusso, a 28-year veteran of the Philadelphia School District. She would grab her school-issued broom. “You just scoop it up, you clean it up, and you move on.”
Her fastidiousness, however, put her at greater risk of inhaling or ingesting cancer-causing asbestos fibers, according to medical experts. DiRusso’s classroom had a history of damaged, unrepaired asbestos pipe insulation, School District records show.
In late August, as she was settling her 18-year-old daughter into her freshman dorm room, DiRusso, 51, got an urgent phone call from her doctor: She had mesothelioma.[Article continues at original source]
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