It is easy to think that most people have very little chance of being exposed to asbestos or suffering an asbestos-related lung cancer, such as mesothelioma. After all, we do not work in WWII era shipyards, make asbestos laden insulation for electrical systems, handle plaster or wall board made with asbestos or any other material that may have been made with asbestos materials.
We work in an office, or some building engaged in non-manual labor. If we think of asbestos at all, we probably think there is very little chance that we could ever be exposed to the deadly material. Besides, if they need to remove product that contains asbestos, there are strict laws that govern the way in which the material must be handled and the contractors who do the abatement work carefully follow these rules and have highly trained employees.
Rooms and floors where the hazardous material is located are completely isolated from other parts of the building, the air ducts are sealed off and no exchange of contaminated air is permitted to the rest of the building.
In Brooklyn, someone may want to sell you a bridge the next item you visit. Human nature what it is, the laws and rules are often violated. Sometimes even by the government. A news story details how a water leak in a Sacramento County building caused ceiling material to collapse. The material apparently contained asbestos, but the clean up appears to have violated the typical asbestos abatement procedures.
One worker reported there were fans blowing on the fallen material and that the air conditioning system was never turned off. He claimed the county's response was a "cover-up." The County claimed the material on the floor did not contain asbestos, but the worker had it tested, and the test found asbestos.
Because of the complaint filed with Cal-OSHA, a formal investigation will be necessary to sort out the various claims.
While a car crash may pose a greater immediate risk, because of the millions of pounds of asbestos in buildings all around us, we are all at some risk to asbestos exposure every day.
Source: The Sacramento Bee, "The Public Eye: Possible asbestos exposure of Sacramento County workers alleged," Brad Branan, April 21, 2013