Many buildings in Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the rest of the United States were built during an era when asbestos was used in virtually every aspect of production. While the asbestos was very dangerous to those who manufactured the products and to the workers who installed them, residents and occupants of the building are usually not at risk.
The reason for this is because asbestos is only dangerous when it is inhaled, and, if there is asbestos in the walls, for example, there is not much risk of inhaling the deadly fibers. However, if the fibers are disturbed, the asbestos can become friable, which means that it is capable of being crushed by the pressure of the human hand. Once this happens, it becomes very dangerous. Asbestos can become disturbed by neglect that allows a building to crumble, and it can be disturbed in the process of conducting renovations or demolition.
If a building owner has reason to believe there is asbestos, and renovations or demolition is being planned, the owner should have a licensed asbestos abatement contractor come in and perform a full inspection. If the inspector sees what he or she believes to be asbestos, the next step is to collect a sample and send the material to a laboratory for microscopic analysis. Once the presence of asbestos is confirmed, the building owner will work with the asbestos abatement contractor to develop an asbestos abatement plan that must be submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), and then a permit for abatement must be obtained. This must be done before the asbestos abatement process commences.
A recent article from the Logan Daily News described how the process can become very confusing and potentially put people at risk for asbestos exposure and asbestos-related illness such as malignant pleural mesothelioma. In this case, a property owner purchased an old high school and was told at the time of purchase that he would be able to demolish the structure.
He was told would be able to use a backhoe to do much of the work and then burn the debris to get rid of it. He then went to start the work, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said they would not allow him to burn the debris. The owner said the EPA performed testing for nine months and told him he could hose off waste and then take it to a regular waste disposal facility. At this point, people in the community were complaining about the abandoned structure and wanted the owner to get rid of it, but he said there was nothing he could do.
The owner then said people in the community began to threaten that they would burn the structure down, and he told them he wanted to get rid of it, but he couldn’t. Then, to the surprise of nobody, the structure burned down, and it is believed the fire was the result of arson.
At this point, there is debris that contains asbestos, and it is unknown if asbestos was released into the air, but nobody is able to proceed at this time.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Trustees express concerns over torn down building, January 23, 2016, The Logan Daily News, By Katharine Hibbard
More Blog Entries:
Can Family of Asbestos Workers Sue for Illness?, September 15, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog