Asbestos and Renovation & Demolition in Commercial Buildings

Asbestos is a topic of concern that seems never to stray too far from the American consciousness. That’s especially true for men and women who work in industries where exposure still occurs or has occurred in the past.

The dangers of asbestos were recognized decades ago, and led to ground-breaking litigation and legislation that helped to compensate victims and protect workers from future harm. Nevertheless, asbestos has not been completely banned in Oregon, the United States, or many countries around the world. Therefore, many workers still must take appropriate precautions to limit their exposure to the dangerous substance.

In this article, we’ll discuss whether commercial buildings in Oregon are inspected for asbestos before renovations or demolition.

Understanding the Dangers of Asbestos

Asbestos is the term used to identify several related minerals. Thus, there are several types of asbestos. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), asbestos is a carcinogen, and all types of asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, ovary cancer, and larynx cancer. Multiple organizations concerned with public health have called for a total asbestos ban. Examples include WHO, the American Public Health Association, and the World Federation of Public Health Associations.

Many countries agree with these public health organizations. More than 60 nations have banned asbestos, including many countries in the European Union. The Environmental Working Group asserts that asbestos-related disease kills 10,000 Americans every year. The WHO states that 125 million people around the world continue to be exposed to asbestos at work.

Fortunately, even though America has not completely banned asbestos, its use has been restricted so that it is not used in nearly as many products as it once was. Additionally, state and federal occupational safety rules have been enacted that are designed to help limit unnecessary exposure to asbestos. Nevertheless, dangers continue to exist.

Dangers to Construction Workers and Others Involved in Demolition and Renovation

In the past, asbestos was used in a wide variety of home and commercial construction products. Thankfully, that usage has now been restricted in many of these products.

The problem is that construction workers and those involved in demolition and renovation projects often find themselves working on older structures that were built prior to limitations being imposed on the use of asbestos. Thus, even if asbestos were completely banned today, many workers performing these job functions would still be exposed to the dangerous mineral.

Moreover, workers involved in demolition and renovation find themselves in particularly dangerous circumstances. Asbestos is most dangerous when it is old and becomes friable. That means it can be crushed like a powder. When it is disturbed, the particles of asbestos become airborne and can be inhaled. This is how the fibers enter the lungs and cause damage.

Sawing, sanding, cutting, and similar renovation and demolition activities are exactly the kinds of actions that can disturb the asbestos and cause it to become airborne.

Oregon Requirements for Commercial Renovation and Demolition

In Oregon, before demolition or renovation of a commercial building can proceed, an asbestos survey by an accredited inspector must be completed. A copy of this survey must remain onsite during the demolition or renovation activities. This is great news for those working on the project, because they can better protect themselves when asbestos is present.

If asbestos is found, appropriate abatement procedures protect those who may occupy a renovated building. The Oregon Department of Environment Quality can provide information explaining the definitions of “renovation” and “demolition,” and exactly what is required in an asbestos survey.

Call with Questions

If you or a loved one has developed an asbestos-related illness, we know you will have questions about your rights and how to proceed. We will be happy to answer them if you give us a call. These illnesses can sometimes take decades to develop. Therefore, even after improvements occur in the workplace, disease can result from exposure that occurred many years ago when greater dangers existed.

At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, our experienced mesothelioma lawyers have fought to hold wrongdoers accountable to the workers and families they have harmed. We believe this is the only way to make sure that our community is safer in the future than it has been in the past.


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