Bill seeks to make razing condemned buildings containing asbestos easier

Federal legislation was recently re-introduced that, if passed, will help communities rid themselves of dilapidated - and asbestos filled - buildings by waiving some restrictive federal regulations that initially made tearing down the building cost-prohibitive.

When considering the bill, lawmakers will be charged with the task of balancing the dangers of exposing the public and construction workers to asbestos against the dangers posed by asbestos-laden buildings that may fall down by themselves and cause even more injuries if nothing is done.

Common Sense Waiver Act

The legislation - H.R. 204, and known as the Common Sense Waiver Act - was re-introduced this legislative session by Congressman Bill Owens. Specifically, the bill would permit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to waive any asbestos emission standards required under the Clean Air Act during the demolition or renovation of a condemned building when there is a "reasonable expectation of the building's structural failure."

Currently, if cities want to raze abandoned and condemned buildings, they have to adhere to various EPA regulations - including the regulations dealing with asbestos emissions. And while these regulations are in place to protect the public, compliance with such regulations often prove too costly for municipalities and local governments to afford.

In the case of condemned buildings that contain asbestos, current regulations can create situations in which cities are forced to simply wait until a building falls down if they can't afford to demolish it. So not only are the buildings filled with asbestos, but structurally deficient - both of which are dangerous to the public.

The new bill, if passed, would seek to remedy these dangerous situations by permitting cities to safely tear down these dangerous buildings without having to abide by otherwise cost-prohibitive regulations - hopefully ridding themselves of the structurally dangerous buildings and the asbestos they contain in the process.

Asbestos exposure in construction

Obviously the public benefits when structurally unsound buildings that contain asbestos are eliminated, but it is important to note that EPA regulations are originally enacted for a reason - namely, to protect people from dangerous situations.

For instance, construction workers often find themselves facing possible asbestos exposure when they renovate or demolish older buildings. This is largely due to the fact that asbestos - which is fire resistant and an excellent insulation - was commonly used in building materials until the 1980s. In can be found in some older ceiling tiles, flooring tiles, insulations and joint compounds, just to name a few. As most know, exposure to the asbestos contained in these products can lead to deadly cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Although it remains to be seen whether the recently introduced bill will be passed, what is for certain is that countless buildings are still riddled with asbestos. If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of asbestos exposure, it may be advisable to speak with an experienced asbestos litigation attorney in order to ensure your rights are protected.