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asbestos removal

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.

Italian Asbestos Mine Offers Hope For an End to Mesothelioma

MesotheliomaFormer asbestos mining sites around the world present a contamination load and continuing risk to human health that is frightening. The reclamation of one closed asbestos mine in Italy, however, offers hope for a future where mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are almost unknown.

A Toxic Discovery: Chrysotile Asbestos

The tiny Italian towns of Balangero and Corio are nestled in the foothills of the Alps north of Turin (Torino). They have become famous in recent decades as the neighbors of one of the most toxic sites in Europe: the Balangero Asbestos Mine.

In 1907, in serpentine rock formations, miners discovered fibrous chrysotile, a form of serpentine also called white asbestos. Chrysotile, like other forms of asbestos, was prized for its insulating properties.

The Balangero mine began extracting chrysotile in the 1920s from an open pit mine or “glory hole.” The operation used methods to crush rock and dispose of asbestos-laden mine tailings that contaminated the mine site and its surroundings with toxic dust. Workers crushed and bagged asbestos wearing little or no safety gear. Tailings were dumped over an incline and down a ravine. Over the years, the dumpsite built up a 45-degree slope, creating an unstable mass of asbestos tailings that threatened to cause a toxic rockslide.

In 1990, the company that operated the mine went bankrupt and the Balangero mine closed, leaving behind a denuded and scarred hillside and a 400-hectare (approximately 1,000 acres) site thoroughly contaminated with asbestos. The dumpsite was considered one of the most hazardous sites in Italy. If it were located in the United States, it would have been labeled a Superfund site.

A 2008 study found a higher than normal incidence of mesothelioma among former workers at the mine (both blue collar and office personnel). The study also found a mesothelioma cluster among local residents who had never worked at the mine but were exposed to asbestos fibers that contaminated the air, land, and water around the Balangero mine.

Back to Nature: Remediation of an Asbestos Mine

In 1992, after Italy banned asbestos, it became clear that the mine would never reopen. Several local and regional governments banded together to clean up the site. A fund of 40 million Euros (44 million dollars) was created to pay for the remediation.

In the late 1990s, after careful planning, crews in hazmat gear began working to clean up the former mine, which included a number of buildings filled with machinery contaminated with asbestos, the glory hole (now filled with water), several tunnels through the mountain, and the unstable slope of the dump site.

One of the first steps was to reintroduce vegetation on hillsides laid bare by decades of mining and grading. Crews dropped seeds from helicopters across the excavated moonscape and new life began to sprout.

The most critical task was to stabilize the slope where the mine had dumped its dry tailings. A landslide could send a cloud of asbestos fibers into the air, raising the risk of mesothelioma in surrounding communities, as well as contaminate a nearby waterway. The remediation group set up a tramway to airlift out some of the contents of the overfilled dump. The remaining slope in the dumpsite was stabilized with wires and logs. Plantings were added to further prevent erosion of the slope.

The design called for the creation of wooden conduits to channel water and prevent erosion. The water that runs off the slope of the dumpsite is captured and filtered at the bottom of the hill before it enters a local creek, to prevent toxic asbestos fibers from entering the waterway.

The remediation group set up an enclosed warehouse on the site where they carefully sealed and bagged toxic materials from the Balangero mine. The processing machinery will be decontaminated and the metal melted down.

During the remediation process, trucks spray roadways and other surfaces to keep asbestos fibers from becoming airborne. Vehicles are decontaminated before they leave the site.

Return of a Green Valley

Almost two decades on, remediation is not yet complete and much of the original funding remains to be spent. As part of the project, monitoring stations check the ambient air for asbestos fibers so crews can target their remediation efforts and ensure that air quality goals are being met.

Amazing progress has been made, however, in transforming one of Italy’s most toxic sites back to the verdant landscape that existed before the Balangero mine opened.

A recent YouTube video about the reclamation shows a brilliant blue lake in place of the ugly hole of the chrysotile asbestos mine pit. The grim, barren landscape of the abandoned mine has been replaced by verdant hillsides. If you didn’t know what had been there before, you might think this was just another one of the lovely alpine landscapes that Northern Italy is famous for.

Even more importantly, generations of residents in Balangero, Corio, and other neighboring towns will be spared the mesothelioma risks that The remediation is putting toxic asbestos where it belongs: safely underground.

Keeping Asbestos Abatement Honest

asbestos abatementI was disturbed to read a story in the Chicago Tribune about an Illinois school district that got in trouble with the law for keeping inaccurate records on asbestos abatement. These incidents may have needlessly put students and faculty at risk of deadly diseases such as malignant mesothelioma.

One teacher is looking for answers
In 2006, the Elm Place, Sherwood and Indian Trail schools of North Shore School District 112 were conducting asbestos abatement projects. However, the jobs were put on hold in the middle of 2007, when the state’s Department of Public Health found violations within the schools’ record keeping practices.

Although the abatement work resumed one month later, Steve Bartel, who teaches fifth grade at Lincoln School, still has questions. He told the news source that he’s worried the asbestos abatement work in 2006 that took place in other schools may have had shoddy record keeping as well.

Bartel has made several impassioned appearances before the school board demanding answers. When he didn’t get them, he filed Freedom of Information Act requests, which also went without a response.

“I can’t understand how they can be so insensitive to people having been exposed to fibers that are linked to asbestosis and mesothelioma,” Bartel told the Chicago Tribune. He also revealed that he had been professionally reprimanded for his actions.

Meanwhile, officials with the school district are reassuring parents that all the asbestos abatement work is conducted by specially trained and licensed professionals, and that air analyses to test for asbestos fibers are conducted by separate contractors. Ultimately, they claimed that no one was harmed throughout this whole process.

Where can asbestos lurk in my child’s school?
It’s important to remember that asbestos doesn’t pose any health hazards as long as it’s left intact. Still, all people, including children, should be aware of the presence of asbestos so they know to avoid it.

When it comes to schools, asbestos is most likely to be used for insulation, flooring and ceiling tiles, cement pipes, corrugated paper pipe wrapping, decorative insulation and spray-applied insulation. The school should have a record of where these items are on campus, and let people know that they’re not to be disturbed.

Schools also need to conduct regular inspections and have a management plan – all of which need to be documented in records that are available for public review.

Don’t give up until you get the answers you need
Experts estimate that every year in the U.S., asbestos-related diseases claim nearly 10,000 lives. Asbestos exposure is clearly no joke, and should be taken seriously by everyone.

That’s why we find this story appalling on several levels. Not only did the school districts fail to maintain accurate and trustworthy records, but they also may have put their teachers and students at risk.

If you have concerns about your child’s school, contact the local education agency and ask to speak with the person who’s designated to handle asbestos-related activities.

Countries Band Together to Say No to Toxic Ship Dumping

asbestos exposureWhether we’re talking about old naval ships that served the U.S. in the Vietnam War or once-magnificent cruise ships that outlived their shine, the fact is that large maritime vessels need to be properly disposed of when they’re no longer useful – the keyword being “properly.” Too many times, countries around the world cut corners when they get rid of their ships. Not only are these practices not environmentally friendly, but they also needlessly put people at risk of exposure to asbestos and other toxins.

That’s why I’ve found it so encouraging to learn that more than 30 non-government organizations in Europe are pushing for the European Parliament to create a continental fund that supports green policies for ship recycling.

90 percent of old ships are dumped on the developing world
One of the reasons why current ship breaking practices make us at Kazan Law so angry is that these responsibilities are often dumped on developing countries. In fact, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, or CLUI, estimates that 90 percent of the world’s ships are sent to Pakistan, Bangladesh and India to be broken apart.

What’s the danger there? For one thing, many old ships used asbestos as a form of insulation in their engine rooms and other areas. People who work to break the ships apart are at serious risk for diseases such as malignant pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 107,000 people from all over the planet die annually because of illnesses caused by asbestos exposure on the job. That includes those who work as ship breakers. However, asbestos isn’t the only thing that puts people’s health at risk. Mineral oil, bilge water, heavy metals such as lead and mercury, and other chemicals are also hazardous.

Countries try to go green
It’s easy to cut corners on ship breaking, but there are several NGOs in Europe that refuse to stand idly by as both the environment and people are imperiled. More than 30 groups, including Greenpeace and the International Federation of Human Rights, signed a petition to the European Parliament to support green ship recycling practices.

An environmental committee within the European Parliament voted to create a continental fund that would encourage European countries to bear the management costs of handling the hazardous waste from ships. The petition calls on the whole parliament to implement the proposal. Money for the fund would come from fees levied on ships calling on any port in the European Union.

The governing body is scheduled to vote on the fund April 18. Additionally, they’ll vote on whether to ban beaching, an irresponsible practice in which ships are broken apart on tidal beaches instead of impermeable floors.

In addition to protecting both the environment and workers’ health, ship recycling advocates also support greater bargaining rights for individuals who work as ship breakers.

How does the U.S. deal with its own ships?
Federal law in the U.S. requires that most ships be disposed of within this country. Most of these jobs take place at sites in Virginia, Maryland and Texas. Once the ships are sufficiently dismantled and cleaned by firms specializing in these jobs, they can be used for sinking in live-fire military training exercises. Also, one environmentally conscious practice used for clean and empty ships is to sink them offshore for the purposes of establishing new coral reefs. These sites also provide curiosities for scuba divers.

Safe Demolition Essential to Avoid Asbestos Exposure

demolition siteDemolition projects are rife with hazards and not just those that come from falling debris and heavy machinery. The presence of asbestos in a building that is to be torn down presents a number of dangers as such work can allow the naturally occurring mineral’s fibers to become airborne, which can have deadly consequences.

The inhalation of asbestos fibers has been proven for decades to cause a number of serious illnesses such as lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma.

Recognizing these dangers, action has been taken at two sites in the northeastern part of the United States regarding potentially dangerous demolition projects.

Massachusetts officials claim violations at shed demolition

Officials in Holliston, Massachusetts, said that the town’s Water Department violated local and state laws protecting wetlands when it knocked down a shed.

MetroWest Daily News reports that a truck damaged the shed over the summer and the building was torn down shortly thereafter.

Town Conservation Commission and Board of Health member Richard Maccagnano said that such action was unacceptable as asbestos may have been present in the structure, which was reportedly built in 1958.

Maccagnano said that the department needed permission to perform such a demolition, something Water Commission Chairman Dennis Ferreira says he did not know.

“We weren’t aware that we needed a special permit to do it,” he told the news source.

Currently tests are being conducted on the structure and it is expected that the demolition debris will be removed soon.

New York business owner angered over potential demolition of shop

The owner of the old Peters Dry Cleaning in Lockport, New York, said that he would sue the city if it proceeds with emergency demolition plans on the structure.

A wing of the facility – which was built in the 1920s and ’30s – collapsed in mid-December and owner Patrick McFall was ordered to obtain an asbestos report for the structure. However, McFall insists that his building is asbestos free and said that he would file a lawsuit against the city if they tore his building down.

However, Chief Building Inspector Jason Dool says that the store likely contains the substance.

“Certainly you can’t tell by a set of blueprints. It could be in plaster, it could be in window caulking,” he told the Buffalo News. “Due to the age of the building and everything else, I would not be surprised if there were asbestos in the building.”

Dool added that the city has the authority to tear unsafe buildings down, but acknowledged that a walk-through of the structure is likely needed.

These incidents show that demolition of asbestos-containing structures need to be taken seriously.

Burned Ohio Building to Have Asbestos Removed

burning buildingA building in the city of Wellston, Ohio, that was burned in a fire approximately six weeks ago is set to have asbestos removed as part of the cleanup process, the Jackson Times Journal reports.

According to the news source, the Kuppenheimer Building, which was referred to by many older local residents as the “pants factory” and by younger residents as the “chocolate factory,” was completely ravaged by the fire in March.

The destruction had significant consequences for the community, as the city had reportedly been marketing the building, which could have brought in a new business and potentially created jobs in the area.

Cleanup process gets underway

While the community is still shocked about the destruction caused by the massive fire, the city has begun taking steps to clean up the former building and ensure that it does not pose any health risks to local residents.

We have a contractor coming in to take out asbestos that was found in the structure,” city engineer Tim Wojdacz told the news source. “At the point the contractor is done taking the asbestos out, we will have the EPA come in again and re-test to make sure it is gone, and then continue cleanup.”

Wojdacz added that it would be much more expensive to dispose of asbestos-containing waste than it would be to simply rid the building of the carcinogen and have it hauled away, according to the news source.

Loose asbestos poses health risk

The removal of asbestos-containing materials is critical for local citizens as the deadly mineral fibers can become airborne when loosened during renovation or demolition projects. The inhalation of these fibers has been proven to cause a range of serious illnesses including asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in the tissues surrounding a majority of the body’s internal organs.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 2,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma each year.

City plans to rehabilitate structure

While the destruction of the building and subsequent asbestos removal will undoubtedly prove costly, the city is already planning to refurbish the property to make it marketable to businesses once again, the news source said.

Wojdacz added that he is still planning to apply for Clean Ohio funding in order to bring the building back to life and attract new business, according to the Times Journal.

Illegal Asbestos Dumping Connected to Organized Crime in Australia

Exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, can cause a number of serious illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Due to the deadly nature of this carcinogenic mineral, which was once widely used in many industries for its insulating properties and resistance to fire, the handling and disposal of asbestos is highly regulated. While following the proper asbestos procedures is vital, it can be expensive, which has caused a number of unscrupulous individuals to ignore the rules, putting workers and the public at risk.

The Australian state of New South Wales has recently been swept by a scourge of illegal asbestos dumping. According to a report from the Sun Herald:

It costs about $3,840 Australian to dispose of a truckload of asbestos. This high cost has led to people finding other ways of getting rid of the substance.

About 500,000 tons of asbestos is dumped in the state illegally each year. While the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water could not confirm that figure, it did report that 1,000 tons of sand containing asbestos was recently dumped at a soccer field in Rockdale. Residents told the Sydney Morning Herald that illegal dumpers know how to quickly disguise the substance, using a layer of top soil and covering that with a spray-on lawn treatment.

There was an “an underlying criminal element” connected to the illegal dumping according to Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water specialized regulation director Craig Lamberton. Some of the dumping was connected with criminal gangs, with some cases involving biker group requiring police escort.

Stronger Illegal Asbestos Dumping Fines Needed

Also making the lure of illegal dumping, which is called “tipping” in  Australia, stronger is that the penalties, typically just fines, people  face are fairly minor. The significant cost advantages of illegal dumping outweigh fines and court costs.

According to Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water waste manager Chris McElwain, fines for illegal dumping in NSW were higher than any other place in the country and that his agency would increase the range of its inspections over the next year to help crack down on illegal dumpers.

Justice for Victims of Asbestos Related Diseases

Ensuring that these criminals are brought to justice is important as their activity puts the public at risk. Since the mid-1960s, the inhalation of asbestos fibers has been known to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of many of the body’s internal organs.

The World Health Organization estimates that asbestos-related diseases claim the lives of 107,000 individuals each year around the globe.

The Sun Herald reports that the department has ordered a court injunction against one of the worst offenders in the state. If Dib Hanna, who was fined $133,000 last year for four asbestos-dumping cases, is caught one more time, he could end up in prison.

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