This blog has repeatedly called attention to the fact that many old buildings in North Carolina contain large amounts of asbestos-containing products that pose a significant health hazard. Both state and federal regulations specify the methods of removing and disposing of asbestos materials if an older building undergoes renovation. A recent case in another state shows once again that such regulations should not be taken lightly.
We wrote in this blog several weeks ago about a man who worked in a factory that processed talc for cosmetic manufacturers and who recovered damages for exposure to asbestos in the talc. Another case involving talc as the source of asbestos fibers has now been resolved in favor of the plaintiff. Both cases may interest residents of North Carolina, because talc is one of the most widely used minerals.
The snow-covered slopes of the Rocky Mountains may seem like a long way from North Carolina, but a recent citation issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that the hazard from exposure to asbestos-containing products can appear just about anywhere.
The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has drafted regulations to protect workers from exposure to asbestos, and these regulations apply to every state. When OSHA levies a fine on a company in one state for violating these regulations, the action may also pose a warning for companies in North Carolina. Thus, the recent decision by OSHA to levy fines on a company in another state may have implications for employers in North Carolina.
North Carolina has many buildings that were built prior to 1960s and before awareness about the health hazards of airborne asbestos fibers. Renovation of these buildings often requires removal of asbestos-containing products that were used in the building's original construction. Sometimes, however, asbestos removal is either ignored or mishandled. A potentially gigantic class action involving the Jackson County courthouse in Kansas City, Mo. that now has been reinstated by the Missouri Court of Appeals makes these exact allegations.
Most people in North Carolina know that asbestos poses a significant health hazard, but not everyone understands how this material causes illness. In our last blog under the title "Asbestos Primer," we described the physical nature of asbestos: it is a naturally occurring mineral that was commonly used in sulation products, brake linings and valve gaskets before its health risks were discovered. In this post, we will discuss the medical implications of exposure to asbestos-containing products.
Most persons seeking damages for exposure to airborne asbestos are well past middle age because the time period between initial exposure and the appearance of active symptoms typically is measured in decades. Now, several claims seeking damages on behalf of children have been filed against a school district by parents of students in three elementary schools where asbestos-containing products were discovered during renovation projects. Although no similar cases are known to exist in North Carolina, these cases may herald the opening of a new front in the long-running asbestos dispute.
A common question for persons in North Carolina who may have worked in close proximity to asbestos-containing products is how much asbestos is dangerous. Doctors and scientists have never reached a widely accepted answer to this question, but a recent study published in a leading medical journal dealing with occupational medicine finds that even relatively low levels of asbestos exposure can cause lung abnormalities.
Most victims of asbestos-caused illnesses in North Carolina and elsewhere have been exposed to the mineral over a span of many years, and many juries have awarded damages for such exposure. In a remarkable ruling, a Louisiana appellate court has now ruled that five days of intense asbestos product exposure may have been a "substantial contributing factor" to the development of plaintiff's asbestosis.