Connecticut case underlines asbestos prevalence

9 Feb 2009 by under Legal, News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Feb. 5 that Anderson-Wilcox Corp. and Cutting Edge Concepts II LLC agreed to pay a fine of $300,000 for improper removal and disposal of asbestos at a New Haven, Conn., site. The fine is part of a settlement agreement between the companies, the , and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Connecticut.

According to the EPA news release, the companies were fined for improperly removing and disposing of asbestos from a historic property that was undergoing renovation and construction. Despite knowing that asbestos was prevalent in the structure, built in the 1800s, the EPA said the companies instructed subcontractors to remove asbestos-containing materials such as vinyl floor tile from the building and to throw it into standard open trash dumpsters.

By failing to use extreme caution in handling asbestos-containing materials, the company put its workers and the public at risk. Asbestos fibers are deadly when they are disturbed, as in demolition work, which releases them into the atmosphere. Inhaled asbestos fibers may cause a variety of asbestos-related diseases including asbestosis, a severe scarring of the lungs that impairs breathing, and , a deadly cancer.

The effects of asbestos exposure may not become apparent for years after exposure, when they manifest to cripple or kill.

Just last week, I was invited to participate in a good-intentioned project to help renovate a building for use by a charity group. The notice announced plans to tear down sheet rock, pull down ceilings and rip up flooring, and I shuddered at the thought of potential asbestos exposure.

It still boggles my mind that people are not aware of the potential hazards in tasks that seem harmless and even helpful.

If you are planning to undertake a building renovation project, please, please consider calling an asbestos abatement expert to have the structure inspected for possible asbestos hazards before you begin. Extreme caution should be used – and in many cases is required by law – when handling asbestos-containing materials.

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