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New Hampshire Voices Win Over Asbestos Exposure Threat

recycling plantDespite more than 70 years of research linking asbestos exposure to the development of several potentially deadly diseases, certain industry stakeholders just don’t understand how justifiably fearful and angry consumers become when talking about the material. That’s why, every now and then, it makes me happy and proud to come across a story of everyday people expressing their voices and demanding to be heard.

What’s even better is when someone listens.

Recently, I followed a story from The Telegraph in New Hampshire, where the residents of the city of Nashua became angry about a proposal to establish an asphalt shingle recycling and grinding operation. Among their worries was the possibility of asbestos exposure.

Neighbors come together
The proposed site of the operation was the facility at Scrap Metal Inc., a salvage and recycling plant. Although residents received letters that the head of the facility applied for permits for the project, they got upset when they learned about the Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing through the newspaper. Once that happened, they decided to gather at the meeting to express their opinions.

Neighbors told the news source about several concerns they had. Specifically, they were worried about the additional traffic burden that would come from trucks delivering asphalt shingles, and they were scared about the possibility of the shingles releasing asbestos fibers into the air.

At the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting, 150 residents showed up. After listening to the concerns of the people, the board concluded that the proponents of the operation were unable to provide enough reassurance about the project’s impact on traffic, noise levels and environmental health. Ultimately, the proposal was rejected.

Resident Cindy Gallien had this to say about Scrap Metal Inc. owner Ansel Grandmaison:

“We’re not trying to stop him from running his business, we’re just trying to save our lives.”

What is the danger of asphalt shingles?
Asphalt shingles are valuable for recycling because they can be reprocessed to manufacture pavement materials and new roofing materials. However, between 1963 and 1977, three of the largest manufacturers of shingles in the U.S. sold products that contained asbestos fibers.

Normally, asbestos isn’t a health hazard as long as it’s not disturbed. Shingle recycling definitely has the potential to disturb asbestos fibers. Many of the shingle manufacturers weren’t forthcoming about how much asbestos they used because they didn’t want to get sued, so recycling businesses today need to be aware of when and where certain shingles were produced.

If you live near a facility that recycles asphalt and you’re worried about asbestos dust entering your home, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Remove your shoes before entering your house so that you don’t track dirt inside. Also, place doormats outside of each entrance.
  • If you allow pets outside, be sure to clean their fur and feet before letting them back in.
  • When dusting, use a wet rag.
  • Clean uncarpeted floors with a wet mop. To clean carpet, use a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter.
  • If you have area rugs, wash them regularly.
  • When walking, biking or driving outside, stick to paved surfaces.
  • When your kids play outside, allow them to play on covered surfaces only. That includes grass, asphalt, wood chips, pea gravel and rubber.

Knowing that the residents of Nashua refused to tolerate the threat of asbestos exposure is inspirational to us at Kazan Law. It shows what everyday people can accomplish if they band together and raise their collective voice.

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