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Asbestos Poisoning Tests Ordered For Massachusetts Housing Authority Workers

The Lowell Housing Authority has agreed to pay for asbestos poisoning tests for its maintenance workers, who it’s believed were exposed to the deadly fibers through improper handling in the course of a renovation project. asbestos2.jpg

Our Boston mesothelioma attorneys understand that the decision came following months of concern by union members representing the workers, after asbestos was found in at least one of the areas where work was ongoing.

The Lowell Sun reports that the union president said the idea was born after an environmental consultant was called in to figure out the level of asbestos present during all major projects. That was months after city council raised concerns about whether the agency failed to properly handle the disposal of asbestos during updates to North Common Village, a four-year project that was completed in 2011.

Asbestos was located by the consultant in the second layer of floor tile in the structure during testing conducted over the summer. Many of the workers subsequently – and rightfully – became worried about their exposure to the asbestos.

When the material is airborne, the fibers become caught in the lung tissue, causing scar tissue that over time will develop into mesothelioma.

The housing authority director said the testing proposal includes awareness measures to inform all eligible members of the testing availability. Additionally, those measures would include the recommendation that those who had worked at the agency the longest make testing a priority, as a large number of the buildings owned by the authority were full of asbestos. A fair amount still remains, he said.

He went on to say that the testing should “put their mind at ease,” as many of the older workers had been working with asbestos-laden materials for years.

We would add that one round of testing may not be enough. Mesothelioma takes years, often decades, to develop after exposure. Often, there is little indication that a person is sick until many decades later. By then, the disease is aggressive, and typically fatal within a few years.

The union, for its part, says it is satisfied that the authority has agreed to specific testing times and is offering to pay for it. In addition to testing for asbestos exposure, workers can also be tested for exposure to lead from the paint and other harmful materials they may have encountered in the course of their work.

Approximately 50 workers are eligible for the testing.

Additionally, the board is contracting with an asbestos removal company for nearly $60,000 to seal off underground pipes that contain the material. While the board was praised for being proactive, it seems to us they failed in that regard, and that similar action should have been taken much sooner during previous renovation projects.

Our Boston mesothelioma lawyers want to make sure that those workers who end up contracting an asbestos-related illness understand they may be entitled to financial compensation. Those individuals should meet with a qualified and experienced mesothelioma attorney upon diagnosis.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in New England, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
Lowell Housing Authority to pay for workers’ asbestos-poisoning tests, Jan. 10, 2013, By Lyle Moran, The Lowell Sun
More Blog Entries:
Prohibitive Asbestos Lawsuit Bill Approved by Ohio Senate, Dec. 30, 2012, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog