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Renovations reveal asbestos fibers in public buildings

The serious health risks associated with asbestos have been in the news for over 50 years, and some people in North Carolina and elsewhere may have become complacent and assumed that the risks have been virtually eliminated. No one can deny that the hazards created by asbestos-containing products have been greatly reduced, but two recent cases from neighboring states demonstrate that the hazards are far from disappearing completely.

Workers in buildings owned by Shelby County, Tennessee, have alleged that they have been exposed to asbestos fibers during the renovation of several older county buildings. In response to these claims, the county hired experts to inspect the buildings and remove any asbestos fibers that were found. Work was halted more than once to allow for these inspections and removals to take place. Nevertheless, county employees have found additional concentrations of asbestos fibers, especially in the old county morgue. The county said that it is "committed to providing safe workplaces for its employees." The workers have hired an attorney, but so far, the case has not reached the courts.

In another asbestos situation, Louisville University will be required to pay a fine of $5,425 because it violated a state regulation in failing to take adequate steps to minimize the risks of asbestos when it renovated a campus building. The Metro Pollution Control District said that untrained workers were used to remove of the building's dropped ceilings and that they disturbed asbestos pipe insulation. A university spokesman said that the infraction resulted from a "paperwork error" and that no fibers had been released into the air. A second survey by the Air Pollution Control District found that the university was in compliance, and work was allowed to continue.

While neither of these cases has resulted in death, they both demonstrate that asbestos is a current environmental hazard despite all that is known about its role in causing fatal diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. Persons who fears that they may have been exposed to asbestos fibers should seek competent medical advice. If an asbestos-related disease is diagnosed, a consultation with a lawyer who specializes in handling asbestos claims can provide helpful advice on legal strategies and the likelihood of recovering damages for lost income, medical expenses and pain and suffering.

Source: Local Memphis, "Shelby County Workers Claim Exposure To Asbestos," Tish Clark, July 22, 2016

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