Asbestos contractors target homeless, other vulnerable people

This blog has written about asbestos contractors who face fines and prison sentences for failing to follow proper procedures in removing asbestos and in protecting their workers. A recent federal court trial in Detroit reveals a new variant: asbestos removal contractors who hire persons living in homeless shelters, undocumented immigrants or other vulnerable persons to remove asbestos-containing products from buildings undergoing renovation. The newspaper report of the trial stated that similar examples have been discovered across the country, and North Carolina residents are therefore potentially at risk for such exploitation.

The trial in question involved a contractor who recruited workers from a homeless shelter. The contractor paid the workers cash to remove asbestos but did not provide training, protective gear, water to wet down crumbling asbestos or property disposal bags. In one building, workers said that asbestos rained down as thick as snow. Some of the workers were dressed in shorts, tee shirts and flip-flops, and none was wearing any sort of protective clothing.

The newspaper that reported the story found other examples of contractors that preyed on vulnerable people, such as immigrants, ex-convicts, day laborers, homeless people and teenagers. Many of the persons hired for such work do not speak English or are too frightened to report violations of government safety regulations.

Persons who work in these conditions are exposed to great amounts of asbestos fibers, and they are therefore at great risk of contracting an asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis. Anyone working in such conditions may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in handling claims based on asbestos product exposure. A knowledgeable attorney can advise a worker on places to report safety violations and whether the person may have a claim for damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering arising out of the asbestos exposure.

Source: Detroit Free Press, “Asbestos contractors target homeless, other vulnerable people,” Jennifer Dixon, May 1, 2016