Sanitation Workers at High Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Most people are honest when it comes to hazardous materials and doing the right thing to get rid of them. Home owners and contractors who need to dispose of toxic waste – in most cases – follow the rules and take the materials to the proper landfill.
But, say some Waste Management workers in Oregon, they come across the materials all the time, even in places where dumping such waste is against the law.
A TV station in Lane County, Oregon recently reminded its viewers that asbestos is a dangerous toxin and exposure can cause cancer and other diseases.
That means when it’s time to remodel, demolish, or reconstruct a home, it’s important to know whether or not the debris that’s left behind contains asbestos.
If it does, then the rules for proper disposal need to be followed in order to avoid exposing sanitation workers to the dangerous mineral.
Workers at the region’s Glenwood Transfer Station explain that they must always check items that are being dropped off at that facility to see if they contain asbestos. Quite often, staff members say, the toxic material is identified.
“With the housing market being on the increase we’ve seen more remodels, more demolitions, so with that we’re seeing more potential for asbestos coming through our facilities,” said Chad Ficek, Special Waste Analyst for Lane County.
Because of the abundance of asbestos-containing debris and materials being dropped off at the Glenwood station, the county has changed its laws pertaining to asbestos and home inspections.
In July, The Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) changed the date requirements for residential properties that must be checked for asbestos.
The old requirement stated that homeowners had to check for asbestos if their residence was built before 1987. The new rule says any residences that were built before 2004 must be checked.
“If you’re planning on remodeling or doing a demolition project on a home built before 2004, you need to have an asbestos survey completed,” said Kim Singleton, Environment Specialist for the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency.
Homeowners – and, sometimes, contractors – often try to skirt these laws because an asbestos inspection can add a lot of dollars to the cost of a project.
Nonetheless, with such laws in place, those who don’t follow the rules just might be subject to a hefty fine. At that point, the project becomes much more costly.
Other cities and counties around the country are following Lane County’s lead, changing rules to make inspection requirements more wide reaching.
This protects not only the homeowner and the contractor and his/her employees but also waste workers and anyone else who’s dropping off items at a waste station. After all, exposure to asbestos dust – even the smallest amount – can be deadly.