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Improper disposal of asbestos violates federal Clean Air Act

In past weeks, we have discussed those who have been victims of asbestos exposure on the job. Whether they are firefighters or construction workers, many people have developed lung cancer after being exposed to the toxic fiber, due primarily to their line of work. However, another significant cause of exposure can be linked to improper disposal of asbestos.

One man thought he was saving some time and money when he decided to hire some people and have them throw away some asbestos in a regular metal trash bin without telling them about the asbestos. When officials finally discovered the violation, the man who was responsible was charged with violations of the federal Clean Air Act.

According to reports, the man was part owner of a warehouse. He wanted to rent out his warehouse, so he hired men to bag up insulation that was in a dumpster and throw it away. He gave them garbage bags and duct tape, but neglected to tell at least one man that the insulation he would be bagging up and throwing away contained asbestos.

The insulation had been pulled from piping in the warehouse, which is a common area to find asbestos. It was frequently used in insulation and piping materials until the dangers associated with it were discovered.

When the federal Environmental Protection Agency stepped in to investigate, after receiving a tip, they discovered a container full of the toxic substance, as well as 90 bags of asbestos in the warehouse.

The neglect and complete disregard for public safety that this man exhibited is astounding. He knowingly exposed people to asbestos when he asked them to throw away the materials, failing to mention the asbestos. By throwing the bags of insulation in the trash, he could have also exposed others.

There are strict regulations for disposing of asbestos. Materials should be soaked with water and removed in small amounts before being double bagged. People who are removing the asbestos should also be wearing protective gear to ensure they are not exposed during this process. In most cases, people hire an asbestos removal company who understands and follows all the guidelines associated with removing asbestos.

It is unknown what will happen to the man who exhibited such casualness with this hazardous material. The workers he hired may develop the fatal lung diseases associated with asbestos, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. That also remains to be seen. Those who knowingly put other people in harm's way should be held accountable for their negligence.

Source: Democrat and Chronicle, "Avon man charged in improper disposal of asbestos," Gary Craig, Dec. 21, 2011

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