The dangers of asbestos are well-known. Exposure to the mineral can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and several other cancers. Over ten thousand Americans die from these diseases each year. As a result, in 1989 the EPA has banned nearly every use of asbestos, but the asbestos product manufacturers successfully sued to reverse the ban.  Due to their continued lobbying of Congress, asbestos remains legal today in most products.  . And, despite strict rules regarding the disturbance of existing asbestos product in place,  some companies still cut corners in ways that put lives at risk.

That seems to have been the case in a recent incident in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The residents of an apartment complex were startled to discover they may have been exposed to asbestos by shoddy repairs. According to KRDO news, the property’s management company had renovated parts of the building where the work could disturb asbestos. But they didn’t bother to tell the residents.

What are building owners supposed to do?

The Colorado Springs residents have good reason to be upset. As they noted, they were all living in their apartments throughout the renovations. If the work kicked any asbestos into the air, they were exposed. That’s why there are strict standards for containing asbestos work sites. There are also strict regulations for companies that want to renovate buildings that contain asbestos.

As KRDO noted, the management company was supposed to test for asbestos before starting work. Then they should have gotten a permit to contain the asbestos. But the company never applied for the permit.

So what are building owners supposed to do? State laws may vary, but the EPA oversees federal rules that apply to all public buildings and residential buildings with four or more units. They say that owners and managers need to:

  • Notify the appropriate state agencies before starting work
  • Contain the asbestos
  • Keep the air clean
  • Work with accredited asbestos professionals
  • Meet additional requirements for care and disposal

By all accounts, the property managers in Colorado Springs had failed to take these basic precautions. Instead, they may have put the residents’ lives at risk. There’s no amount of asbestos exposure known to be safe.  Invisible levels of asbestos in the air cause cancer.

Are you being exposed to asbestos?

For decades, asbestos was considered a miracle fiber, and it was used in buildings everywhere. It was put in ceiling tiles, floor tiles and insulation. The EPA says it’s safe while it remains completely undisturbed, but if the asbestos-containing materials are disturbed in any way, they release asbestos into the air to be breathed.

For this reason, the EPA forces schools to create and maintain asbestos plans. It also provides guidance for the owners and managers of public buildings. In most cases, this means watching for problems and taking care of them. If your building owner or manager can show you detailed asbestos records, you may be in good hands.