First responders fear asbestos exposure at deadly building collapse site

     Rescue personnel search the scene of the building collapse in downtown Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

    Rescue personnel search the scene of the building collapse in downtown Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

    Three weeks after a deadly building collapse in Philadelphia, first responders are worried about their health.

    They want to know if there was asbestos in the building when it collapsed at 22nd and Market Streets on June 5.

    “I still don’t know if it was in that building,” Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. “I’m hoping it wasn’t.

    Ayers said firefighters who rushed to the collapse scene were not wearing gear to protect themselves from asbestos, which is a cancer-causing substance.

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    That day, according to Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, at the height of the search there were 125 emergency crews at the site. Some of them worked for hours as the rescue and recovery efforts stretched from 10:45 am on Tuesday until late in the day on Wednesday.

    Six people died that day when a four-story building that was being demolished, came crashing down on the Salvation Army Thrift Shop next door.

    Kenneth Hudson, a licensed asbestos investigator, inspected the building that collapsed before the demolition started. In his report, obtained exclusively by NBC10’s Harry Hairston, it reveals there was no asbestos in the building.

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    Hudson admits he did not conduct a test for asbestos because he says it wasn’t necessary.

    “What I see, I document, I take samples of it, if need be, if there is suspect material. There wasn’t any suspect material, so there wasn’t any reason for me to take a sample,” Hudson said.

    The City of Philadelphia has Hudson’s inspection report, but refuses to make it available to the public, citing the grand jury investigation into the collapse.

    City Councilman James Kenney is part of the council’s investigative committee conducting hearings on the collapse. He has accused the Nutter Administration of hiding behind the grand jury rather than participating in a way that would help the committee make swift changes to avoid future disasters.

    “If in fact it’s determined it’s germane to the grand jury, I don’t need to see it; they can at least say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ they have one,” Kenney said.

    Hudson said he has nothing to hide.

    “I did my job as an asbestos inspector,” Hudson says. “That’s as far as I can comment, professionally.”

    Mayor Nutter’s office declined to comment for our story because of the grand jury investigation.

    This story originally appeared on the website of NBC10, with whom NewsWorks has a partnership.


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