The Dangers of Safe Asbestos Use
In the past, the dangers of asbestos were often carefully concealed from workers and others who were routinely exposed to the substance. Fortunately, through the bravery and hard work of mesothelioma victims, along with the assistance of their lawyers and the court system, many wrongdoers were ultimately held accountable for their reprehensible conduct. But even with important changes in the law and our increased knowledge of the potential consequences of asbestos usage, one would be wrong to conclude that dangers do not persist. In this article, we will discuss some examples of some ongoing dangers related to asbestos.
Asbestos Has Not Been Completely Banned
Even though asbestos is a known carcinogen which can cause mesothelioma and other health-related illnesses, it has not been completely banned. Moreover, even when it has been banned in new products, it may still be present in older products which were used in construction many years ago. For example, while current law prohibits the use of asbestos in certain types of flooring felt and insulation, it was permitted in those products in the past and can still be found in older buildings. The good news is that asbestos is now regulated more carefully and used in fewer products. Additionally, many more safety procedures exist to protect workers from the dangerous effects of asbestos. However, even with all these changes for the better, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that more than one million people are exposed to asbestos daily.
Risks from Fire and Demolition
Asbestos is not particularly dangerous in its normal state as a mineral. It becomes dangerous, however, when its fibers become airborne and are inhaled. Fires and demolition can both exacerbate the risks of inhaling asbestos used in a structure. For example, a fire may not completely incinerate the asbestos in a burning building, allowing or causing it to become airborne. This is a particular concern to firefighters. Similarly, when a building is demolished, the integrity of the materials used in the construction is affected. Asbestos which may previously have been safely contained within the interior of the structure may be disturbed and become airborne. Anyone working in an industry which comes in contact with burned or demolished buildings should use extreme caution.
Firemen are required to take certain safety precautions, such as wearing self-contained breathing apparatuses, and should do so diligently. In fact, even after a fire appears to stop burning, the continuing collapse of the structure can release asbestos fibers. A few other recommendations for any person exposed to asbestos, including those in the construction and demolition industries, include the following:
- Be knowledgeable – find out if the area in which you are working contains asbestos. If you’re not sure, ask questions. Testing may be in order.
- Take training seriously – accept all asbestos-related training offered, and take it seriously.
- Do not disturb asbestos – if you are not trained to handle asbestos removal yourself, hire someone who is. Don’t drill, saw, tear, or otherwise disturb anything containing asbestos.
- Follow the rules – follow all local, state, and federal rules and regulations related to asbestos. Most of them exist for your safety.
- Ask an expert. Your health is the number one concern. Any time you have questions about your safety, ask an expert.
Call for a Free Consultation
Luckily, some exposure to asbestos turns out to be relatively harmless. Unfortunately, some long-term exposure results in devastating health consequences, such as mesothelioma. Worse yet, legal actions through the years have proven that some employers take active steps to hide the dangers of asbestos exposure from their employees or to short-cut safety protocols. Society demands, and the law supports, that such wrongdoers be held accountable for their actions. If you have been exposed to asbestos and are worried about your health, or even if you’re not sure and want to investigate, please contact us with your questions or for a free consultation. The experienced lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are familiar with the law and how to conduct the appropriate investigation. We would be happy to help answer any questions that you might have.
Oregon State University – Asbestos Awareness Training: http://oregonstate.edu/ehs/asb-train
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality – Asbestos Information for Homeowners (including demolition): http://www.oregon.gov/deq/Hazards-and-Cleanup/Pages/Asbestos-for-Homeowners.aspx
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality – Asbestos Information for Contractors and Businesses: http://www.oregon.gov/deq/Hazards-and-Cleanup/Pages/Asbestos-for-Businesses.aspx
EPA – Asbestos Training: https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/asbestos-training
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality – Asbestos Information: http://www.oregon.gov/deq/Hazards-and-Cleanup/Pages/Asbestos-Information.aspx