Asbestos in your Backyard

Asbestos was mined, manufactured, consumed and disposed of in the United States for decades before any federal regulations were implemented. Because of this, hundreds of sites in each state are identified as contaminated with asbestos. Asbestos attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm wish to inform the public that information regarding your community is available on your state’s Department of Environmental Services website. Each state is required to maintain an updated list of all known asbestos contaminated sites. The health risks associated with exposure to asbestos of any kind include development of lung and gastrointestinal cancers, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Because of its wide array of applications, asbestos was used in thousands of products and industries until the late 1980s. Contamination may occur in any number of ways. Asbestos-containing building materials, such as siding or roof shingles, could become damaged and fallen to the ground. Fences, garages, or garden sheds may contain asbestos. Many companies offered asbestos waste free of charge to property owners looking to fill in their lots. These transactions were not documented and now threaten the health of unknowing residents. Every year new sites are discovered in all 50 states, as asbestos that was once buried becomes visible through erosion, frost, and other natural or recreational activities.

Asbestos waste comes in a variety of forms, including pellets, spheres, whole sheets and scraps/fragments of sheets resembling “cement board.” It may be gray, white, black, green or red in color. After being in the soil for many years, it has a tendency to blend with its surroundings and can be hard to distinguish from clean soil, rocks or cement. “Baghouse” waste, which is a fine, dust-like material, can look like loam or fertile soil.

If you find asbestos waste, do not disturb the material. Report the finding to your local health officer, who can provide further guidance. When asbestos is disturbed, it can break down into microscopic fibers that may become airborne. Once airborne, these fibers can be inhaled and trapped in the lungs, posing a health threat. Breathing asbestos can cause respiratory diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of the chest cavity lining. Disturbing asbestos material during activities such as landscaping, digging, excavating and gardening can expose you and your family to asbestos fibers by releasing them into the air or by contaminating clothing and equipment. That’s why it is important not to disturb the material further if you discover exposed asbestos.

Your state’s Department of Environmental Services has the authority to assist in the proper management of asbestos waste on your property. The Department also provides certification/licensing to workers and contractors to enable them to investigate and remove or cover asbestos waste from your property.

In addition, the Department provides periodic awareness training and education to property owners so that they can better identify and manage asbestos waste. They will work with you, the local health officer, and certified/licensed contractors to ensure that any asbestos waste discovered on your property does not present a health or environmental hazard.

Accidental exposure may be a result of cleaning up garden debris, landscaping, or using high-pressure water blasters for cleaning. Plan ahead to prevent disturbing and releasing asbestos fibers, particularly when renovating or demolishing any structures such as sheds or garages. Do not leave asbestos cement products around the garden, or where they may be broken or crushed. Asbestos material that is “friable,” or able to be crushed by human pressure, poses a much larger health threat because the fibers do not dissolve in water or move through soil. They are generally not broken down to other compounds and remain virtually unchanged over long periods.

Asbestos attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm warn the public that asbestos on the ground that is not covered or is allowed to be exposed to the environment poses a threat to you and your family’s health, the environment and the general public. If you believe you were exposed, and developed an asbestos-related illness, contact an experienced lawyer today to discuss your legal options and possible claim.

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