According to figures released by the National Housing Institute, some 700,000 public buildings in the United States contain at least some asbestos. And, say experts, individuals who live in older, low-income housing are those most likely to suffer exposure to the toxin.
“For people living in substandard housing, the threats of lead and asbestos exposure are an everyday thing. Older housing that has been poorly maintained or where damage has occurred is more likely to contain these substances, compared to newer homes and houses that have been properly maintained and updated throughout the years,” notes an article in Builder Magazine. “As a result, residents of poorer neighborhoods are more likely to deal with health issues stemming from polluted air both inside and outside the home.”
The article notes that studies have shown a prevalence of toxins inside homes where lower income families reside, including not only asbestos but also lead-based paint and radon.
Often, these homes are poorly maintained, with landlords who care about little more than collecting a rent check each month. Hence, they rarely inspect for asbestos or, even if they know asbestos is present, they seldom address the problem.
In the case of Section 8 housing, which includes homes and apartments rented under the Housing Choice Voucher Program spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, asbestos is not even listed as one of the 13 housing-quality standards.
Other toxins, however, like lead-based paint, are indeed listed, so landlords spend money to address toxic paint while ignoring asbestos problems, especially since the presence of lead paint is more noticeable upon inspection.
Hence, many medical professionals are seeing an influx of asbestos disease among low-income individuals who are exposed in their homes.
While the incidence of the disease is decreasing among tradesmen such as shipbuilders and steel workers, simply due to the passage of time and the fact that most uses of asbestos were halted in 1976, at-home exposure continues to cause concern among those who serve the low-income population.
Landlords who ignore the asbestos threat inside their properties should know, however, that they face the possibility of litigation should a tenant of theirs become sick from asbestos exposure, even decades after the exposure occurs.
They can also face fines for not removing or encapsulating the toxic material.
Many landlords also take shortcuts when it comes to removing asbestos from one of their properties, opting for a quick removal by unlicensed individuals rather than hiring licensed abatement professionals who will get the job done correctly.
Hence, property owners should be aware that they can also face fines and other punishment for improper removal.