Three executives of a nonprofit that had contracted with the Merced County Office of Education to run a high school vocational-training program were convicted in 2013 of crimes in both federal and California state courts for their roles in allegedly exposing students to asbestos at a building renovation site. Now, 61 of the former students have sued the school district because they are afraid they could develop cancer as a result of the asbestos exposure, reports the Merced Sun-Star.
In the criminal cases, the defendants were sentenced to prison time in federal prison and a $1.8 million fine payable to the students exposed to the dangerous mineral.
They are reportedly asking for damages for the stress of fearing cancer as well as for medical examinations for life. The defendant school district is responding that the plaintiffs already have medical care paid by workers’ compensation, but it also released a statement that the district would “fully cooperate.”
Asbestos Exposure through Building Demolition
The exposure allegedly happened in 2005 and 2006 when the then-high school students participated in the job-training program that brought them to nearby, closed Castle Air Force Base. They were directed to do renovation work in buildings containing asbestos without appropriate protective equipment.
The article says that the students testified in the criminal proceedings that they had worked in heavy dust that they breathed in and that also entered their mouths. Some of them reported chest pain and bloody noses.
Potential asbestos exposure is a well-known risk in renovation and demolition work. Because building materials historically have a high likelihood of containing asbestos, especially in older buildings, before building materials are broken up or crushed, the materials should be tested for asbestos. If it is present, a licensed asbestos removal company should be hired to safely remove it. A professional removal company will provide workers with safety equipment, take care to contain the escape of microscopic asbestos fibers and dispose of the building debris according to law.