A roundup of recent asbestos-related news and information that you should be aware of. An ongoing list of reported asbestos hot spots in the US from the Asbestos News Roundup archive appears on our asbestos map.
Building materials and insulation such as drywall, floor/ceiling tile, applied fireproofing spray, and piping/boiler insulation used in the construction of schools prior to 1980, frequently contained asbestos.
While undisturbed asbestos materials generally do not pose a health risk to students and teachers, over time they can become hazardous due to deterioration or damage.
If asbestos containing materials are disturbed, (e.g. during the installation, maintenance, or removal process), asbestos fibers may become airborne and pose a health threat to students, teachers and other employees within the schools. Once asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed, the risk of getting an asbestos related disease, such as asbestosis or mesothelioma, also increases. Student exposure to asbestos in schools is particularly concerning because once the fibers accumulate in the lungs, the latency period between asbestos exposure and the onset of symptoms can take as long as 20 to 50 years.
The federal government has been regulating the use of asbestos in schools since the 1980′s. Schools now have regulatory requirements and management plans to reduce the risk of potential asbestos exposure for students and teachers. However, until the presence of asbestos in schools is eliminated entirely, many believe it will continue to pose a health risk.
Charleston, WV: William Eugene Miller, from Wheelersburg, Ohio, is suing 60 companies he alleges caused his lung cancer.
Miller was diagnosed with the asbestos-related illness on April 21, 2011. According to his asbestos lawsuit, the defendants exposed Miller to asbestos and/or asbestos-containing products during his employment as a laborer from 1947 until 1995, according to a suit. The defendants are being sued based on theories of negligence, contaminated buildings, breach of expressed/implied warranty, strict liability, intentional tort, conspiracy, misrepresentation and post-sale duty to warn, according to the lawsuit.
Chicago, IL: A developer renovating a nursing home in uptown Chicago is facing an asbestos lawsuit brought by Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The eight-count lawsuit cites environmental violations related to the faulty removal of asbestos from the nursing home by Somerset Place Realty, the new owner of the property at 5009 N. Sheridan Rd.
Developer Zidan Management Group and general contractor Dubai, Inc., were also named in the lawsuit, which seeks $400,000 in damages ABC7Chicago reported.
“Unfortunately, careless mishandling of this dangerous substance posed a health threat,” Madigan said in a release Wednesday. “This legal action will ensure the workers take appropriate precautions and the contractors effectively clean up the location.”
Both city health inspectors and inspectors with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency) allegedly saw workers “wearing only paper respirators,” and indicated they “were not dressed properly for asbestos removal,” according to Madigan’s office.
The workers were also “removing pipe insulation, tile and mastic containing asbestos without enclosures and without following the proper wetting procedures,” Madigan’s office said.
Madigan’s complaint against Zidan, Somerset and Dubai alleged “substantial danger to the environment, air pollution, violation of asbestos inspection, emission control and disposal procedures, and violations regarding state and local notification of asbestos removal.” (ABC7chicago.com)
Billings, MT: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is coming under fire by internal investigators for “years of delays” in completing health studies that are necessary to inform the ongoing cleanup at the infamous asbestos mining town of Libby.
Hundreds of people living in and around Libby have died from asbestos exposure resulting directly from the mining activities of WR Grace, which mined vermiculite asbestos and made insulation from it, for years.
In 2009, the area where Libby is, some 50 miles from the US-Canada border, was declared a public health emergency, but that was 10 years after federal regulators initially responded to concerns over asbestos dust that came from a WR Grace vermiculite mine. The insulation was used in millions of US homes.
To date, the cleanup has cost at least $447 million, and it will continue, with between 80 and 100 properties remaining to be remediated this year and several hundred still waiting for remediation dates.
Meanwhile, Libby remains under a public health emergency declaration issued by then-EPA administrator Lisa Jackson in 2009. Deaths resulting from the WR Grace asbestos exposure will likely continue for decades due to the long latency of asbestos-related diseases. As for the mine itself, cleanup work has only just begun. WR Grace closed the mine in 1990 and filed bankruptcy, but the mine remains its responsibility. (Associated Press)