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Why isn't my property owner removing asbestos in my building?

Home owners, renters and tenants in commercial buildings should be made aware if they will be living or working in a building that contains asbestos. A property owner has a duty to warn people about the presence of asbestos, but many people may wonder why the toxic fiber isn't or hasn't been removed.

Most people understand the danger that asbestos exposure can pose to a person's health. Breathing in the fibers can cause serious and often fatal illnesses because the minerals are long and sharp and get lodged into a person's lungs and other body parts, leading to cancer. So why would a property owner not have this toxic material removed?

Generally speaking, there are two reasons a property owner may not remove asbestos in a building: they don't have to or they choose not to.

If asbestos is undisturbed, it will not be released into the air and therefore does not pose a significant threat to someone's health. People may choose to cover up the asbestos-containing materials. For instance, if there is asbestos in flooring, property owners may seal that area of the floor or cover it with another type of flooring. This can be an effective way to prevent asbestos particles from being released.

However, if a property owner knows that asbestos is on a premise and chooses to do nothing about it, he or she is taking a big risk with other people's lives. If asbestos is crumbling, damaged or disturbed, it is released into the air and can easily enter a person's body if he or she is in the area. In some cases, asbestos in this condition is simply ignored by property owners. In other cases, the asbestos becomes airborne during demolition or renovation projects and is not properly contained and removed.

Generally speaking, a property owner will not be face legal action if asbestos is appropriately removed, covered or left intact and undisturbed.

In cases when a property owner fails to handle asbestos that is not in good condition, legal action in the form of a premises liability claim may be appropriate. It should be noted, however, that building a claim for compensation can be legally complicated. Having the support of an experienced asbestos claims attorney can be crucial for people who are suffering from mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer as a result of the action or inaction of negligent property owner.

Source: EPA.gov, "My child's school hasbestos in it. Why aren't they taking it out?" accessed on Jan. 20, 2015

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