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Property owners must act responsibly when addressing asbestos

Asbestos is an extremely toxic substance, exposure to which can cause a host of life threatening and health destroying diseases and injuries. In North Carolina, and elsewhere, this can result in the potential for significant premises liability. When property owners discover the presence of asbestos in buildings, particularly those being either torn down or remodeled, they often confront a dilemma--the relatively high cost of properly disposing of the asbestos in a way that is both legal and minimizes the risk of exposure both to work crews and to the surrounding community.

As an example of this problem, a three million square foot Packard Plant that is now in the process of being demolished was found to have significant quantities of asbestos present as well as other hazardous materials. It proved to be difficult to isolate the toxic fibers because the outworn structure had also become a dumping ground for debris and various refuse.

An estimate of the cost to tear the structure down rose as high as $10 million, with as much as $10 million in added environmental cleanup costs to boot. In too many instances, property owners faced with situations such as this may try to skirt the rules or take dangerous shortcuts when it comes to clearing out the toxic fiber, while trying to save time and money.

This, however, is short-sighted and irresponsible since, in the long run, the real cost is not simply dollars and cents but human health and lives. Asbestos must be contained and removed properly, and certified removal experts must take all necessary safety precautions. That is simply a needed cost of properly managing property which has the potential to cause deaths and horrendous injuries. To do otherwise is to foist the economic burden of the problem on the surrounding community and make innocent people pay for a property owner's negligence with their very lives.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Asbestos, reinforced concrete would make demolishing Packard Plant expensive, lengthy," Jennifer Dixon, Dec. 2, 2012

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