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Danger of asbestos product exposure still lurks

Despite decades of awareness in North Carolina, and elsewhere, about the health hazards created by the use of asbestos as a construction and insulation material, the mineral continues to pose problems for the owners of older buildings that are undergoing renovation. This phenomenon has been once again illustrated by an order issued by a state environmental protection agency fining a building owner for using improper techniques to remove asbestos-containing products from an old mill building.

The building in question is a former mill that was built in 1902 and was used for the manufacture of tanks during World War II. When inspectors for the state Department of Environmental Protection toured the mill two years ago, they found many pieces of friable asbestos on floors throughout the facility, on a loading dock and outside the building. Friable asbestos poses an especially serious hazard because it is brittle and easily broken into small fragments. When friable asbestos is broken, it releases asbestos fibers into the atmosphere, where it is frequently inhaled by people in the same vicinity. The friable asbestos in the mill structures came from a de-commissioned heating system.

Most states have adopted regulations that strictly control the manner and method of removing asbestos from older buildings. While regulations differ from state to state, most require the use of a licensed asbestos removal contractor to inspect older buildings for the presence of asbestos and to use removal techniques designed to minimize the creation and spread of inhalable asbestos fibers.

Cases such as this one demonstrate that the health hazard posed by asbestos product exposure in older buildings has not been eliminated. Anyone who believes they may have been exposed to asbestos fibers during the demolition or renovation of an old building may wish to undergo a physical examination to determine whether they have any symptoms of diseases commonly caused by exposure to asbestos, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Anyone who is suffering from the symptoms of such diseases may wish to contact a law firm that specializes in handling asbestos cases to obtain an evaluation of the facts of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.

Source: Worcester Telegram & Gazette, "Fitchburg mill owner fined by DEP for asbestos removal violations," Paula J. Owen, Nov. 12, 2015

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