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City Cautions Urban Explorers About Exposure

If you search the internet for “urban explorers” you will see websites dedicated to those who spend their spare time sneaking into abandoned buildings in cities across the United States taking photographs of what sometimes appears to be a window into the past.

3d-illustration-technique--concept-camera-1398481-m.jpgOne of the locations these urban explorers like to frequent is located in Westborough, Massachusetts. Specifically, this location is the long-closed Westborough State Hospital.

The abandoned 90-acre campus holds the crumbling remains of what was once part of the state psychiatric hospital. The old hospital buildings were used for over a hundred years and officially closed in 2010.

According to a recent news article from Wicked Local Westborough, urban explorers have taken photographs of rooms that have not been touched in years. Some of these rooms hold psychiatric equipment not used in decades. There are old rusty hospital gurneys, antique wheelchairs, large rooms filled with bathtubs, and other signs of how mental illness was treating during the early 1900s.

These photographs also show peeling lead paint, and pipes with peeling insulation likely to be made from deadly asbestos, according to city officials who wish to dissuade individuals from trespassing on the closed campus and going exploring.

While the photographs are extremely interesting, breaking into the campus is illegal and very dangerous. One official interviewed for the story is very worried urban explorers are unnecessarily exposing themselves to toxic asbestos fibers. While asbestos was used in most construction during that time period and was very dangerous to those manufacturing the asbestos products and construction workers installing them, it is not generally dangerous once it is installed. However, as our Boston mesothelioma injury lawyers can explain, asbestos becomes very dangerous when it deteriorates to the point of crumbling.

When asbestos products are deteriorated to a state where they can be crushed by the pressure of the human hand, they are called friable. Friable asbestos is the most dangerous form of asbestos, aside from pure asbestos powder (actually used as fake snow in old Christmas decorations). Friable asbestos is constantly giving off dust when disturbed by flowing air, or in this case, urban explorers.

When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they basically become stuck in the tissue of the lung and lining of other organs known as the mesothelium. In some cases, the fibers will cause severe scarring to the tissue of the lungs known as asbestosis. While asbestosis is treatable, it is not curable and leaves victims with a serious reduction in the quality of life, with symptoms similar to chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and can be fatal without proper treatment.

Asbestosis can also metastasize in the mesothelium layer of tissue and develop into mesothelioma, which is a deadly asbestos-related illness for which there is no cure, and treatments can only extend a patient’s life by several years in best case scenarios. One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with mesothelioma is that it slowly develops to an advanced stage over the course of 20 to 50 years before a patient realizes he or she is sick and sees a doctor.


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

Additional resources:

An ‘Urban explorers’ gold mine, March 27, 2015, Wicked Local Westborough
More Blog Entries:

Asbestos In City Buildings Poses Risk, August 12, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Layers Blog