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Criminal conviction underscores continuing hazards of asbestos

Virtually every state, including North Carolina, has enacted laws intended to protect its citizens against exposure to asbestos-containing products. A principal area of regulation is the strict control of contractors, asbestos-removal firms and remodelers to ensure that demolition of an existing building where asbestos-containing products have been found is conducted under the safest possible conditions. The recent criminal conviction of a plumbing and heating contractor on several charges of violating, such provisions shows that the hazards created by this ubiquitous building material still pose a serious health hazard.

The defendant in Worcester, MA, was found guilty by a jury of three acts for violating the Massachusetts Clean Air Act. The violation was for failing to file notices that asbestos was removed, improperly removing the asbestos and improperly disposal of the asbestos. In the most striking finding by the jury, the contractor was found guilty of child endangerment because he had hired a teenager to remove asbestos insulation from two boilers.

From the dawn of the industrial age to the 1960s, asbestos was used to manufacture many kinds of building products, including insulation, gaskets, pipes and wall board. When the asbestos fibers are released into the air and inhaled, they can cause several types of lung cancer. Mesothelioma and pleural mesothelioma are believed to be caused only be exposure to asbestos fibers.

The criminal convictions in the Massachusetts case show that asbestos is still present in the environment in significant quantities. Persons who have been exposed to asbestos fibers are still recovering damages from manufacturers of asbestos products based on exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. Asbestos is still with us.

Source: The Republican, "Worcester area contractor convicted of illegal asbestos removal, child endangerment," Megan Bard, June 18, 2014

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