Many individuals whose families have been touched by asbestos exposure have been waiting and waiting for the use of the mineral to be banned in the United States. It hasn’t happened yet and may not happen soon.
In the meantime, though most uses of asbestos were halted around 1980, workers in a variety of situations continue to be exposed to the toxin as do other individuals who just seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
One of the most prevalent reasons for asbestos exposure today is illegal removal of asbestos-containing materials by contractors, demolition “experts”, and others involved in the building trade.
Though there is asbestos removal legislation in place, both at the federal and state level (in all 50 states), those rules are quite often ignored and unsuspecting individuals wind up inhaling toxic dust and – all of a sudden – become candidates for developing some sort of asbestos disease later in life.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has long provided a lengthy list of rules governing the handling of asbestos materials, ranging from what individuals who deal with asbestos should be wearing to how to set up proper ventilation so that, during asbestos abatement, the air remains free of particulates that can harm workers and those around them.
Indeed, the rules about the handling of asbestos and – in particular – removal of the material, are exacting and should be followed.
But, often, the scenario goes something like this: The owner of an old structure wants to rejuvenate that space and make it into several brand-new condos.
But it was built in 1965 and there’s asbestos throughout. He realizes it’ll be super expensive to follow asbestos removal legislation and have it properly abated.
So, he hires a few day laborers and puts them to work tearing out asbestos insulation, pipe covering, and other toxic materials by hand. If they’re lucky, he might give them a paper mask, but – more than likely – they’ll spend the day inhaling asbestos fibers. And so will anyone else who gets close to the scene.
Or…a homeowner is renovating his historic house and finds there’s asbestos in the attic and in the shingles. He realizes there’s a problem but doesn’t want to spend the money to do the right thing.
So he does it himself, deciding it’ll be fine if he wears a respirator, or he hears about a contractor who’ll have his workers tear out the asbestos without all those permits and other legalities. No big deal, right?
Sadly, these scenarios are carried out several times each day around the country. That’s not to say that all contractors try to avoid asbestos removal laws.
Most do it the right way, but those who don’t put so many individuals at risk.
The best recourse for those who are harmed by asbestos exposure is to first report the actions of the responsible party to local authorities like OSHA, the EPA, or the state-run Department of Environmental Health and then to consider legal action against the offenders.