According to ABC News (3/12/13), the three men were executives with a non-profit called “Firm Build.” They used high school students to remove asbestos from a building at a former air force base but did not tell the teens they were working with asbestos and gave the students only goggles, hard hats and cotton masks as protection. The men were reportedly convicted of violating federal laws for their actions and could face up to two years in prison.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen and has been linked to serious conditions such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Both are fatal conditions that can take years - even decades - to develop. The conditions develop because asbestos fibers can cause scar tissue to form in a person’s lung, which prevents the lung tissue from expanding and contracting properly. Symptoms of asbestosis include chest pain, cough and shortness of breath that slowly worsens over time. There is no cure for asbestosis.
There are strict guidelines for protecting people who work with asbestos to ensure their chances of inhaling the carcinogen are reduced. Under federal laws, people working with asbestos must be given full-face respirators, Tyvek suits, covers for their footwear, gloves and caps, or they must take specific protective measures to stop the asbestos from coming loose.
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One of the reasons protective clothing is vital is that asbestos fibers stick to clothing and can be inhaled by others who do not work with the material. Many people who developed asbestosis or mesothelioma did not work with asbestos directly but washed the clothes of people who worked with asbestos-containing materials.
Even though there are strict laws governing people and companies that work with asbestos, lawsuits are still filed on a daily basis against companies that are blamed for not properly protecting their employees. The Wall Street Journal (3/11/13) notes that personal injury lawsuits concerning asbestos are filed at a rate of 85 lawsuits per day.