Researchers first linked asbestos to cancer in the 1930s. But because of its utility as an insulator, and because of how cheap it was, asbestos remained widely used until the 1970s. Some manufacturing processes continue to use asbestos today.
Many workers exposed themselves to asbestos dust throughout the 20th century. They suffered for it, and continue to suffer, as many developed mesothelioma and lung cancer. There is no excuse today not to take adequate precautions when handling or disposing of asbestos.
A widespread and growing problem
Unfortunately, there have been a growing number of incidences throughout the country in which property owners, contractors and others have failed to protect workers and nearby residents from asbestos exposure. Recent examples include:
- A hotel owner in Seattle hired contractors to remove asbestos ceiling tile without informing them it was contaminated. The owner knew the ceiling tile was contaminated.
- City building inspectors in New York fraudulently filed false asbestos reports with the city, potentially exposing workers to asbestos.
- A foundry owner in Wisconsin allowed 11 workers to remove an oven that used asbestos as an insulator without providing protection or informing workers of the risk.
- A demolition and remodeling company in South Dakota dumped asbestos, unmarked, into a city landfill.
- A mill owner in Springfield, Illinois, stored asbestos in open-air containers. The mill was located in a residential neighborhood next to a playground.
These are just recent examples in which the perpetrator faced federal investigation and/or criminal charges. Many more examples could be listed, and workers continue to be exposed to asbestos throughout the country.
No safe level of asbestos exposure
The sad fact is that some people are not willing to prioritize worker safety over profits. There is also a myth that some types of asbestos are not deadly, or that only workers who have been exposed for years to asbestos dust develop mesothelioma. While the risk certainly increases with longer exposure, the medical community has long held that there is no safe level of exposure and that all types of asbestos are carcinogenic.
As construction and remodeling projects continue around the country, it is important that contractors, building owners and cities remain committed to identifying and removing asbestos safely. The risk to workers is just too great otherwise.