With the summer construction season underway, our asbestos attorneys want to remind homeowners and construction workers of the potential for toxic asbestos exposure, particularly when work is being done on older homes. A majority of the buildings and homes built prior to 1980 contain some form of asbestos. Demolishing, remodeling, or renovating these structures in any way may create a potentially hazardous situation.
When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, carcinogenic asbestos fibers are likely to be released into the air. These dangerous fibers can lodge themselves in the lungs and lead to cancers including pleural mesothelioma, asbestosis, or asbestos lung cancer.
In some states, landlords or property owners are legally required to provide a disclosure statement to tenants indicating the presence of asbestos. Failing to provide prospective renters with notice of the potential for asbestos may create liability. Homeowners also have a duty to ensure that any renovations done on the property comply with federal and state regulations, such as hiring a properly certified asbestos removal company.
Although asbestos exposure can lead to an asbestos illness for anyone who is even briefly exposed to the toxic fibers, construction workers and other trade workers are most at risk for asbestos exposure. The Mesothelioma Research Center estimates that as many as 1.3 million construction, building, and equipment maintenance workers are at risk for an asbestos-related disease. These workers are regularly exposed to asbestos during repairs and renovations, and the safety risk is heightened if protective clothing is not worn or other safety measures are not followed.
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Removing asbestos during a remodeling or demolition project is particularly risky for insulators and workers who install materials in storage rooms or water pipes. Asbestos-containing insulation materials can easily get into worker’s eyes, lungs, or skin. Sheet metal workers may be exposed to dangerous asbestos fibers through asbestos-laced tiles used in roofing. Plumbers, especially those who work in industrial or commercial buildings, may also come into contact with asbestos when working with water or sewer line pipes.
Even those who were not directly exposed to asbestos are at risk. Occupational exposure to asbestos can also lead to serious health complications resulting from secondhand exposure. Trade workers who come home with toxic asbestos fibers on their clothes or bodies may put their family members in danger of developing asbestos cancers.
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Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases often have a long latency period, and symptoms can lie dormant for decades. Every year, more than 2,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed, and many of them resulted from asbestos-contaminated materials in homes or commercial buildings. Medical treatments are expensive and often unsuccessful- even when a medical procedure is performed, life expectancy after a mesothelioma diagnosis is only 2 years.
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We have experience working with construction workers and other trade workers dealing with the occupational hazards of asbestos exposure. In some cases, the company that failed to provide adequate protective gear during the renovation process may be liable when employees suffer from asbestos-related injuries. Regardless of the size or scope of the project, remodeling and demolition work puts workers and other individuals at serious risk of toxic asbestos exposure, leading to tragic results.