An investigation by reporters in Georgia revealed that the state agency in charge of enforcing asbestos regulations fails to make certain that those removing the dangerous substance are actually licensed to do so. That’s because the program was de-funded six years ago. This lack of basic enforcement, say victim advocates, puts residents and the general public at grave risk of developing diseases associated with asbestos exposure – including mesothelioma.
One of the men who has been affected is in 2015 was diagnosed with mesothelioma. For the last several years, he worked six days every week at a heating and cooling company. At his most recent doctor’s visit, he was given between six and eight months left to live. Mesothelioma, of course, is caused by exposure to asbestos. The man has filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers he believes ares responsible for his exposure to the substance while he was working on residential projects in the Atlanta region some two decades ago. The father-of-two lamented the fact that his condition was terminal, and he would likely die before he saw the companies responsible for the toxic exposure held to account.
Of course, most homes build prior 1978 use some type of asbestos in the joint compound in the wallboards. However, most people have no idea because asbestos doesn’t have any distinct odor or taste. The real risk of exposure occurs when the substance is disturbed and the fibers are kicked up in the air and breathed in. This is especially concerning when you consider that in driving through older neighborhoods in that city at any given time, one is likely to see dozens of these older residences under construction. If the asbestos removal work isn’t done properly by licensed contractors, it increases the risk that not only are the workers being exposed to the toxin, but so too are the neighbors.
There isn’t any safe level of exposure to asbestos, so even slight levels could resulting in lasting and potentially lethal effects.
Similar to in Massachusetts, state law in Georgia mandates that contractors hire people who are inspectors who are licensed to identify asbestos and then safely remove the material before the contractor proceeds with the actual renovation and demolition. The state’s natural resources department was responsible for operating the asbestos abatement program. However, the program was de-funded completely in 2011. That decision was made in the midst of the economic recession in an effort to save precious dollars needed to keep the government functioning.
Before the program was de-funded, state inspectors used to identify dozens of asbestos violations annually. But in the last seven years? With no program in place, there has been not a single citation for an asbestos exposure violation in the entire state. Of course, this doesn’t mean people aren’t violating asbestos exposure laws, which are still in place. What it means is companies aren’t being held accountable for it.
Although county and city governments do have the authority to enact their own guidelines, most local governments in Georgia at this point don’t require any type of confirmation of no asbestos before demolitions and renovations begin. The permitting office in Atlanta doesn’t require any type of contractor confirmation, instead calling the current arrangement “an honor system.”
There are currently no plans to ask the state legislature to restore funding to the state asbestos enforcement program.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Lack of asbestos regulations puts Georgia citizens at risk, Feb. 16, 2017, By Andy Pierrotti, NBC 11 Alive
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Montana Settles Asbestos Claims for $25M, Feb. 19, 2017, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog