Asbestos presents a continuing health hazard in North Carolina

Many people in North Carolina and other states believe that the severe health hazard posed by asbestos fibers has largely disappeared. While many of the original victims of fatal asbestos exposure have died from their disease or other causes, the environmental threat of asbestos fibers is still with us.

North Carolina houses many buildings that were constructed before the nature and extent of the asbestos hazard was discovered after World War II. Many – perhaps most – of these buildings were constructed with materials that contained asbestos fibers. Common examples are pipe and boiler insulation, valve gaskets, shingles and many forms of fire-proofing.

While asbestos fibers do not pose a health threat until they are disturbed, the renovation or demolition of these old buildings has the potential to crush or shred the old asbestos-containing products, thereby releasing asbestos fibers into the atmosphere. State and federal regulatory agencies have recognized this threat by imposing strict regulations that require specific and extensive disclosure of the presence, location and quantity of asbestos in any workplace. The North Carolina Department of Labor recently cited the Raleigh Housing Authority for a violation of the notification and training requirements concerning asbestos.

No one should take the threat of asbestos for granted. Anyone who works near asbestos-containing materials should familiarize themselves with the nature of the threat and, if possible, utilize available protections, such as masks that cover the mouth, pressurized breathing respirators or, in extreme cases, from full-body HAZMAT suits. Given the seriousness of asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis, these prevention techniques are undoubtedly worth the effort.

Source: Raleigh News Observer, “NC inspectors say Raleigh Housing Authority fails asbestos requirements,” Colin Campbell, Aug. 14, 2014