Surgeon General Warns of Asbestos Dangers while Chicago Contractors Cause Exposure

Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that, during the National Asbestos Awareness Week, the U.S. Surgeon General released a statement emphasizing the dangers of asbestos exposure. At the same time, however, two contracting companies on Chicago’s North Side were improperly demolishing a high-rise, resulting in the release of the harmful mineral.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) sought a court order to stop the contractors, Dubai Construction and Zidan Management Group, from any further asbestos release. The nine-story building was built in 1923, when the use of asbestos was widespread and abundant, particularly in areas like Chicago that experienced rapid growth. The name and address of the building was not disclosed, however, it was reported that it formerly housed a mental institution and later a hotel.

The IEPA is also seeking action by the state’s Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, who would be able to grant an injunction. The improper demolition was discovered by the IEPA and Chicago inspectors while visiting the job site. It was discovered that the contractors were not following federal or state laws of asbestos-handling procedures. Inspectors tested the levels of asbestos in the building and determined it to be unsafe. Officials also noted that the two companies failed to notify the proper agencies of the renovation and failed to check for asbestos at all before work began.

The IEPA is currently in the midst of hiring a licensed abatement company and contractor to develop plans to address the contamination. As stated, this occurred during the same week that the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, issued a statement of the realities of asbestos exposure.

In her statement, Dr. Benjamin urged all Americans to educate themselves on the dangers of this carcinogenic, even specifically highlighting its prevalence in construction materials. She went on to explain the public health concerns associated with its inhalation, which occurs when the material becomes airborne.

If a building that houses asbestos-containing materials is demolished, those asbestos fibers will float into the air, posing a risk to all citizens in that surrounding area. Inhalation of these fibers is associated with numerous diseases, including lung cancer, mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lungs, chest, or abdomen) and asbestosis, which is a chronic and life-changing lung disease.

Anyone who disturbs asbestos is at risk of developing these diseases. Dr. Benjamin emphasized certain groups that are of particularly higher risk: construction, insulation, and demolition workers, boilermakers, pipefitters, and others working in old buildings. The risks are also significantly higher for handymen, community volunteers, and first-responders.

The silver lining is that asbestos exposure is largely preventable. Dr. Benjamin highlighted the federally-released Advancing Health Housing – A Strategy for Action, which demonstrates the association between resident health and housing conditions. The report also promotes the most cost-effective ways to reduce in-home health hazards.

As with any carcinogen, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the more likely the exposed person has of developing a related illness. It may come as a surprise to learn that the United States is still importing asbestos into the country by the tons. In fact, Louisiana has the highest number of manufacturers that produce, process or use asbestos, with eight. This poses a large risk not only to those workers but to the consumers who are, often unknowingly, coming into to contact with the substance.

Mesothelioma is perhaps the most deadly disease associated with asbestos exposure, taking about 3,000 American lives per year. The cancer is so fatal because it takes decades to develop in the body (anywhere between 20 and 50 years), is often misdiagnosed, and does not respond to traditional cancer treatments. The median survival time for a patient diagnosed with mesothelioma is just under a year.

This is why it is so important to contact an experienced asbestos exposure attorney as soon as exposure has been confirmed. The attorneys at Pintas & Mullins have decades of experience advocating on behalf of asbestos exposure victims and their families. We can ensure you will receive the best representation and largest settlement possible.

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