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Property owners ordered to pay damages for asbestos violations

The dangers of asbestos exposure have been known for several years. Companies generally stopped using the toxic substance about 30 years ago when the link to several lung cancers was discovered. Besides employees who unknowingly handled asbestos before then, a number of people have been exposed at their own home. A judge recently ordered property owners of a low-income apartment complex to pay $60,000 in damages after failing to comply with a number of asbestos requirements.

According to court documents, the owners of the complex of 202 apartments in the Midwest failed to take proper precautions during renovations a couple years ago. Before the renovation, the company did not inspect the property for the presence of asbestos. The company also neglected to remove the asbestos before commencing projects that could potentially disturb the asbestos, putting the renovators at risk of inhaling the asbestos. There were also violations in the disposal of the materials.

Although the company acknowledged the charges against them and admitted to them, the company maintains that the violations were unintentional and they agreed to the charges only for settlement purposes.

The question of who exactly was exposed to the asbestos during the renovations remains. Besides the workers who handled the materials, were there any circumstances prior to the construction when residents of the apartments could have been exposed? In general, if asbestos is not disturbed, it may not pose a risk to others. However, because it was so commonly used in construction materials until the dangers were discovered, the presence of asbestos on the property may have been widespread.

It can take at least 10 years for symptoms of lung diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis to show. By that time, it can sometimes be difficult for a person to figure out when and where they could have been exposed to asbestos. However, when decisions like this are made in court, it may be easier for a resident or worker to track down the source.

Source: Eastern Iowa News Now, "Judge orders non-profit to pay $60,000 for asbestos violations at Hawthorn Hills," Trish Mehaffey, Jan. 27, 2012

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