Unsafe asbestos removal punished by jail time

Asbestos was once used frequently for insulation and for wrapping wires. Since it was found by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be dangerous to human health, the substance was banned. Exposure to any amount can lead to serious lung problems. Negligence during building demolition and renovations can happen anywhere, including North Carolina, leaving workers and businesses liable to the devastating consequences asbestos exposure can have on people.

While personal injury cases seek to award those suffering from asbestos exposure, federal law also punishes violators of the Clean Air Act and other legislations. Three people were recently sentenced to prison time for violating this law and for conspiracy. A jury found them to be directly responsible for releasing hazardous dust into the air between August 2004 and December 2005.

In addition to conducting uncontrolled demolition to save on costs, without any method to control the asbestos, the parties were accused by prosecutors of covering up their actions to authorities. A special agent of the EPA’s criminal enforcement program also said they hired untrained workers to remove the substance illegally. Charges include conspiracy to defraud the United States, false statements, aiding and abetting, and obstruction of justice.

The three men were sentenced to more than 18 months in federal prison, and tens of thousands of dollars in fines. According to defense attorneys, the men were not aware their actions were harmful.

There are laws to protect human health. According to a U.S. Attorney, the sentences in this case are important because a message is being sent to violators regarding the use and removal of asbestos and other hazardous substances. A lawyer knowledgeable in the field can help innocent people who have been put at risk because of negligent practices like these.

Source: Times Free Press, “Three Chattanooga asbestos polluters sentenced to prison,” Pam Sohn and Todd South, Oct. 2, 2012