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Asbestos Removal in the Workplace

asbestos removalAsbestos removal is something we think takes place in old factories and crumbling dilapidated houses. We think of asbestos in the workplace as a concern only for people who work with their hands in places like shipyards, auto repair shops, heating and insulating companies.

But asbestos removal may be urgently needed in all kinds of workplaces – schools, hospitals, office buildings and even some of the most famous prestigious government buildings in the world.

Asbestos Removal Will Force Queen Out of Buckingham Palace

Reports recently revealed that asbestos removal is even going to drive the Queen of England out of Buckingham Palace while the work takes place.  Those who have been watching the popular TV series “The Crown” know how dutiful and dedicated to tradition Queen Elizabeth is.  So it would take something very serious and potentially deadly to compel her and her husband Prince Philip to move out of the palace where they’ve lived since 1953. And that something is asbestos which is both extremely serious and deadly. Royal officials report that Buckingham Palace needs approximately $230 million in reconstruction and upgrades.  The oldest parts of the palace date to 1703. Electricity was installed in 1949, a time when asbestos was still widely used as electrical insulation even in palaces.  It is no wonder that the planned renovations include significant asbestos removal.

Asbestos Removal Prompts Partial Closure of U.S. Capitol

Asbestos removal and fears of asbestos exposure in the workplace prompted the recent temporary closure of one of the most important workplaces in the world – the US Capitol building in Washington D.C. where Congress meets. The Capitol partly closed due to concerns about asbestos toxicity while the building was undergoing repairs. The partial closure included the chambers where the U.S. House of Representatives usually meets. Congress stayed away while asbestos removal experts in hazmat suits worked in the building.

The Capitol asbestos scare occurred as the historic building was in the process of undergoing a major overhaul. Along with multimillion-dollar renovations to the iconic Capitol Dome, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), the office responsible for its management and maintenance, had asbestos removed from other parts of the building.

The need for asbestos removal from iconic places like Buckingham Palace and the U.S. Capitol highlights the danger that high levels of asbestos still presents in our homes, schools, public buildings – even palaces and the halls of Congress. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, a lethal painful form of lung cancer. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure.

If even the Queen of England and the U.S. Congress aren’t  safe from asbestos, what does that mean for the rest of us?

Asbestos Removal Needed In Many U.S. Schools and Buildings

Asbestos removal seems like something that would have been taken care of ages ago. But sadly that is not the case. Asbestos still remains in the floors, ceilings, roofs and walls of many schools, hospitals and other buildings throughout the U.S.

In 1984, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated asbestos-containing materials existed in most of the nation’s approximately 107,000 primary and secondary schools and 733,000 public and commercial buildings. The EPA survey also found that approximately 34,800 schools were found to have areas with crumbling asbestos, potentially exposing an estimated 15 million students and 1.4 million school employees.

Not much has improved since 1984. A 2015 investigation by two U.S. Senators and reported in the Huffington Post found that:

  • More than two-thirds of state education agencies reported having schools that contain asbestos, most of which has been left in place.
  • School districts do not appear to be systematically monitoring, investigating or addressing asbestos hazards in schools, or keeping records.

Where Does Asbestos Lurk in Buildings?

A major factor complicating asbestos removal is that since the late 1800s, when large-scale asbestos mining first began in the U.S., asbestos was used in a vast amount of industrial products. It was used because it was cheap and resistant to damage from fire, electricity, and chemical interaction. So, despite the fact that knowledge of the damaging effects of asbestos on human health dates back to ancient times, it was widely used in building construction. Because it could help make a building fire-resistant, it was heavily incorporated into schools, hospitals, and industrial centers.

Asbestos can still be found in:

  • building and pipe insulation
  • wall and ceiling panels
  • floor tiles

Asbestos also lurks in a wide variety of other materials and tools which are omnipresent within the construction industry.

How is Asbestos Removal Done?

Asbestos removal requires meticulous skills, special equipment and permits for depositing the removed asbestos in special landfills. This is why it should only be done by licensed professionals.  Because of the time and equipment involved and the precautions needed, asbestos removal can be very costly. This is a major reason why asbestos removal has not occurred in many U.S. schools, hospitals and industrial buildings.

Typically, the part of the building targeted for asbestos removal has to be sealed off in order to prevent contamination reaching other areas.  Sealing can include the use of polyethylene film, and duct tape.  Negative air pressure machines which are fitted with HEPA filters may also be used to prevent asbestos fibers from getting out into the surrounding environment.

A special vacuum cleaner designed specifically for asbestos containment is the only kind that can be safely used when cleaning up during and after asbestos removal. Ordinary vacuum cleaners cannot be used, even those fitted with a HEPA filter because they might release the deadly asbestos dust into the air aren’t good enough.

A new method of asbestos removal was recently used at Northern California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. A track mounted wet cutting saw with a diamond blade was used to cut contaminated parts of a building into small sections. These were then double wrapped in plastic, the minimum requirement for transporting asbestos material, and driven to a landfill.

Asbestos removal is not the only type of asbestos abatement. Asbestos and asbestos-containing materials may also be enclosed to prevent asbestos exposure.

Many people exposed to asbestos in the past don’t remember where they may have been exposed, which product may have caused the exposure, or where the exposure occurred. If you or a family member has been given a mesothelioma diagnosis, you should consider consulting with an experienced law firm with the skilled staff needed to perform extensive investigations into your exposure. At Kazan Law, we have a robust team of investigators who dig deep into your past to find out where you were exposed and to what asbestos products. Our firm is one of the pioneers of asbestos litigation and we have helped hundreds of families secure compensation to help pay for the substantial cost of mesothelioma treatment and ongoing living expenses.