One of the main ways that American workers are exposed to toxic asbestos today is during demolition and remodeling projects involving older buildings, and a recent New York Labor Department order underscores the danger of unauthorized asbestos removal, New York attorney Joseph Belluck said.
“Old houses, schools and factories are often filled with asbestos containing materials,” Belluck said in a press release. “If asbestos isn’t properly handled and disposed of, demolition workers could be at risk of inhaling asbestos and of creating a community health hazard.”
Inhaling asbestos is associated with serious respiratory diseases including malignant mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen that strikes 2500-3000 Americans a year.
On Sept. 24, the New York Department of Labor issued a stop work order and strongly worded statement addressed to the owner of a former paper million in Lockport, New York, concerning the ongoing demolition of an asbestos-contaminated building at 89 Mill St. The owner had previously received a Notice of Violation after state labor inspectors found numerous asbestos violations, including a lack of an asbestos survey and the use of uncertified workers.
Currently, an estimated 1.3 million construction and general industry workers are being exposed to asbestos, according to a recent estimate by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Maintenance, demolition and remodeling activities that might disturb asbestos should be performed with precautions to protect the workers and the public.
Belluck, a partner in Belluck and Fox, a New York law firm that represents victims of mesothelioma, said it’s critical that any New York contractor hire a licensed asbestos removal contractor when demolishing a building in New York and use workers trained and certified in asbestos removal. He said demolition workers who handle asbestos materials without protection or training are jeopardizing their health.