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Defendants Convicted for Having High School Students Remove Asbestos

Asbestos is present in many buildings and other structures throughout the world. It is still used in new construction in developing nations, due to its cheap cost and effectiveness at resisting heat, fire, caustic chemicals and electricity, despite known dangers to humans.

handcuffs7.jpgAsbestos fibers can become lodged in a layer of tissue known as the mesothelium, where they can metastasize into a deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. There is no way for doctors to detect presence of these fibers in human lungs, as they are microscopic, nor is there any way to remove the fibers. However, it typically takes 20 to 50 years for victims to develop noticeable symptoms, so unscrupulous business owners are often still willing to risk workers’ lives and safety due to the long period of time it takes an individual to become detectably ill.

One rather tragic recent example is illustrated in a news article from Insurance Journal. According to federal prosecutors, a government agency hired three defendants to demolish part of a now-closed airbase and turn it into an automotive training facility. Contractors allegedly used high school vocational students for much of the demolition work without telling them there was asbestos in the building. Even if they had told students about asbestos being present, it would still be illegal to use unsupervised workers during an asbestos abatement (removal) project under state and local law.

Prosecutors said the court sentenced defendants to 24 to 27 months in connection with this case. Under federal sentencing guidelines, defendants are not eligible for parole and must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence in a federal penitentiary, private correctional facility under U.S. Bureau of Prison supervision or a federal work camp and can earn up to 54 days per year in “good time,” which amounts to a potential 15 percent reduction in time served. Upon release, inmates will still be on supervised release and can be sent back to prison for violations.

The reason this is such a serious crime is because there are major ramifications for potential victims. First, as to the workers, they were likely exposed to asbestos dust that may now be embedded in their lungs and other organs. There is no way for doctors to know, and victims must wait until they become sick. At that point, they may have less than a year to live, while suffering extreme pain due to mesothelioma, asbestosis, or other respiratory illness. They may also have exposed family members to asbestos dust, because people who do not know they are covered in the toxic substance generally do not take adequate precautions before getting in their cars and driving home to their families.

Boston asbestos-related-illness attorneys know of cases where victims became sick from exposure due to a family member’s contaminated work clothes. There is also a high probability high school workers put asbestos-containing waste in ordinary construction trash bags and threw it in dumpster, where sanitation workers and the community at large could also have been exposed.

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

Additional Resources:

3 Former Execs Ordered to Pay $1.8M in California Asbestos Case, Feb. 25, 2015, Insurance News
More Blog Entries:

Urban Renewal Project Includes $247,000 for Asbestos Removal, May 18, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog