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Articles Posted in Asbestos Containing Materials

Across separate settlements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commits to accelerate and strengthen asbestos risk reevaluation under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). On October 13, 2021, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), an organization dedicated to preventing asbestos exposure, said that the organization and its allies had reached settlements with EPA regarding the toxic mineral that causes mesothelioma. These settlements come after a heated legal battle over a contentious risk assessment. ADAO and its allies have been pushing for a comprehensive second risk evaluation for asbestos for some time now and are glad they struck these settlements with the EPA. According to the president and co-founder of ADAO, Linda Reinstein, a more robust and comprehensive evaluation will better document the massive harm asbestos continues to cause in America.

As per the deal, the Environmental Protection Agency will finish the second risk assessment by December 1, 2024. The second risk evaluation is expected to address the deficiencies in the first risk evaluation. In an agreement, the EPA agreed to, among other things;

  • Expand its second risk evaluation to include all six asbestos fiber types instead of only chrysotile asbestos.

According to NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, repair and re-occupation of buildings damaged by Hurricane Ida is essential to the public health, economic well-being, and safety of New York City. In an attempt to help NYC repair damage caused by Hurricane Ida, Mayor Bill De Blasio, in early September, declared free asbestos removal services in New York. Emergency Executive Order No. 235, signed on September 7, 2021, retroactively dated the fee waivers back to September 1, 2021. On top of waiving fees for asbestos removal, Mayor Bill De Blasio waived the 7-day advance notice requirement for asbestos projects. For an applicant to be deemed eligible for suspension of the fees, they only needed to submit a certification that such work was due to storm damage. Normally, NYC requires submission of asbestos abatement permits and workplace safety plans one week before work starts. Emergency Executive Order No. 235 took effect on September 7 and remained in effect for five days.

The waiver of asbestos fees was meant to relieve an additional burden for property owners who were already dealing with storm damage. NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio recognized that property owners would require permits, inspections, document filings, and applications associated with repair work as part of the recovery after Hurricane Ida. So, in an attempt to help property owners, the mayor allowed the Department of Environmental Protection to waive fees related to asbestos removal. On the other hand, the Department of Buildings was given the power to waive fees associated with construction document filing fees, electrical permits, special fees, and permit filing fees.

More Tools and Recommendations for Communities Cleaning up After Hurricane Ida

Whenever a hurricane season approaches, people within hurricane-prone regions of the United States of America prepare by stocking up on food supplies, gasoline resources, water, and materials to strengthen and protect homes. While stocking up on all of these is important, preparing to deal with the risk of asbestos exposure once a storm has passed is equally important. Unfortunately, many people do not know about the threat of asbestos exposure after a hurricane.

Why is Asbestos a Threat After a Natural Disaster?

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is heat-, electricity-, and corrosion-resistant, was used throughout most of the 20th century in countless construction materials. These materials are considered safe as long as they remain in good condition and undisturbed. When asbestos-contaminated materials degrade over time, they may become damaged due to a number of forces such as renovation and unexpected natural disasters like hurricanes. Natural disasters such as hurricanes can damage asbestos-containing materials in buildings in ways that lead to asbestos exposure among homeowners, first responders, and cleanup crews.

Asbestos is a mineral composed of flexible and soft fibers that are resistant to corrosion, heat, and electricity. Although these qualities make asbestos a useful mineral, asbestos exposure is highly toxic. For a long time, asbestos was used in construction, fireproofing, and insulation.

Unfortunately, many individuals assume that asbestos exposure is a thing of the past while it remains a deadly public health concern. Even though scientists have long recognized the dangers of asbestos exposure and made these dangers known, asbestos-related illnesses and deaths remain a big concern. According to recent data, more than 40,000 asbestos-related deaths occurred in 2019 alone. Some of the common fatal asbestos-related diseases include asbestosis and mesothelioma.

There are many things users do not know about asbestos, yet it is important to be knowledgeable about this toxic substance. By being knowledgeable, you can take the necessary precautions against asbestos.

The link between mesothelioma, a type of cancer, and asbestos exposure is irrefutable. In fact, asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Apart from mesothelioma, asbestos exposure can cause other diseases like asbestosis and lung cancer. In an effort to reduce cases of people developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases or cases of people dying because of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, many countries across the world have banned asbestos. Notable nations that have not banned asbestos include the United States, Brazil, China, India, Russia, and Canada. Therefore, while the United States of America has implemented prohibitions on asbestos manufacturing and has not produced asbestos for many years now, the nation continues to import this toxic substance. Unfortunately, the importation of asbestos into the United States means that Americans will continue suffering from the fatal effects caused by asbestos.

300 Metric Tons Imported in 2020

Based on a recent report, while the U.S. imports of asbestos have significantly reduced since the 1980s, there was a high increase in imports in 2020. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released its annual Mineral Commodity Summaries on January 29, 2021, and the report shows a 74% increase in imports between 2019 and 2020. According to the report, the U.S. imported 172 metric tons of Chrysotile in 2019 and 300 metric tons of Chrysotile asbestos in 2020. Chrysotile is the only type of raw asbestos that is imported into the United States of America. According to the report, imported Chrysotile is used by the Chloralkali industry. The Chloralkali industry uses Chrysotile imported from Brazil to manufacture non-reactive semipermeable diaphragms, which come in handy in the industry.

When it comes to apartments and rental properties, tenants usually care a lot about factors like the apartment or rental unit size, rent price, location of the apartment or rental, and safety features. Although these are important factors for tenants to consider, there are many more things people need to care about when it comes to the apartments or rentals they live in. For instance, tenants should be concerned about their rights in regards to asbestos in rental units and apartments. Even though asbestos is not widely used in construction anymore, this substance is still present in many rental properties built before the 1980s. Drywall, paint, cement, ceilings, floor tiles, roofing materials, insulation materials, plaster, and casing for electrical wires are features in older buildings that can contain asbestos materials.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos, which is the name of a group of six unique minerals, is a naturally occurring fiber that is highly heat, electricity, and corrosion-resistant. Because of its qualities, asbestos was widely used in building materials from the early 1940s until its effects on human health became known in the 1970s. Many buildings built before the 1980s are thought to be asbestos-contaminated. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Because of its resistance to corrosion, heat, and electricity, the naturally occurring mineral asbestos was a popular additive to various products in the 20th century. Unfortunately, even though asbestos boasts of such qualities, this substance poses a threat to people’s lives. When inhaled, asbestos fibers can get stuck in a person’s body. Over time, trapped asbestos fibers can cause scarring, inflammation, and eventually asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma, a rare, aggressive, and fatal cancer. Usually, after asbestos exposure, it can take up to 60 years for someone to realize they have mesothelioma. Unfortunately, because of mesothelioma’s long latency period, sometimes people realize they are sick when it is too late. Nevertheless, it is vital to note that not everyone who falls victim to asbestos exposure develops mesothelioma.

As much as not every individual who falls victim to asbestos exposure develops mesothelioma, it is vital to take caution. Being cautious is especially important, considering the life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient ranges from 12 to slightly over 20 months. Even though asbestos is no longer commonly used, it still lingers in workplaces and homes. In the 20th century, the cancer-causing substance was used in thousands of products, and many asbestos-contaminated materials can still be found in offices, homes, and factories across America. Therefore, to avoid asbestos exposure, people must educate themselves about the possible hiding places of asbestos. At work, workers may encounter asbestos in settings such as;

  • power plants

A New Orleans, Louisiana jury recently awarded an $8.2 million mesothelioma verdict to a former mechanic against Ford. Ford Motor Company is a multinational company that designs, manufactures, markets, and services cars, trucks, utility vehicles, and luxury vehicles. After only 60 minutes of deliberation, the Louisiana jury ordered the manufacturing giant to pay the victim $8,261,874 as compensation for the malignant mesothelioma he blamed on the repeated asbestos exposure he suffered while servicing vehicles manufactured by Ford. The jury’s quick decision came after three weeks of testimony about how the former mechanic was repeatedly exposed to asbestos while servicing clutches and brakes installed on Ford vehicles and buses.

Over a year ago, the Louisiana resident was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and fatal cancer. Immediately the former mechanic learned that he had mesothelioma, he filed a negligence and strict liability lawsuit against Ford Motor Company. The former mechanic worked as a gas station mechanic and as a school bus mechanic. It was while working these jobs in the 1960s and 70s that he suffered repeated asbestos exposure. While servicing asbestos-containing clutches and brakes on vehicles manufactured by Ford, the former mechanic was exposed to asbestos dust. When asbestos fibers get stuck in the lining of the lungs after being inhaled, they cause inflammation and scarring to DNA and mesothelial cells. Mesothelioma then develops due to the inflammation, typically decades after initial asbestos exposure.

Ford Motor Company’s failure to warn of the presence of asbestos or related dangers was at the heart of this mesothelioma litigation. The plaintiff’s attorneys and the jury determined that Ford knew about the dangers of asbestos long before the former mechanic’s exposure. They also determined that the manufacturing giant failed to warn the former mechanic about the dangers of asbestos. Due to that, the jury awarded the plaintiff $8.2. million in compensatory damages.

According to a July 8, 2021 opinion, Washington Supreme Court reinstated an $81.5 million ruling in full after overturning an appellate court ruling for a wrongful death claim of an auto mechanic. According to the Supreme Court ruling, the Court of Appeals “overstepped the limited role played by appellate courts in the civil justice system and substituted its own subjective judgment for that of the jury and trial courts based on nothing more than the size of the verdict.”

The original claim was brought forward by the family and estate of the deceased mechanic who died in 2015 at the age of 67 of peritoneal mesothelioma. In 2017, after an approximately 12-week trial, a jury unanimously found NAPA Auto Parts and Genuine Parts Corp (GPC) liable in the mechanic’s death and awarded the deceased mechanic’s survivors $81.5 million. In its verdict, the jury found that NAPA and GPC were strictly liable and negligent for their defective asbestos-containing products used by the mechanic. Before his diagnosis and death, the deceased had worked with brake pads containing asbestos, and other parts manufactured by GPC and sold through NAPA for decades.

After the jury awarded the $81.5 million to the deceased’s mechanic’s survivors, GPC and NAPA moved for a new trial or alternatively to have the damages awarded lowered, which the trial court denied. The Court of Appeals then vacated the jury’s $81.5 million verdict and reversed the trial court in part. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court made a mistake when it excluded one of NAPA and GPC’s expert witnesses and applied what was referred to as “subjective determination.” The Court of Appeals also concluded that the jury’s award was excessive and ordered a new trial on damages.

The number one leading cause of mesothelioma is occupational primary asbestos exposure. However, even those who do not directly interact with asbestos at the workplace can fall victim to asbestos exposure. Second hand asbestos exposure usually happens when a worker brings home asbestos fibers. Since there is no safe level of any form of asbestos exposure, bringing home asbestos fibers on one’s clothes, hair, or even skin inevitably puts everyone in that home at risk of asbestos-related health issues such as mesothelioma.

Primary asbestos exposure was common in the 20th century. During that time, men were at a greater risk of falling victim to primary asbestos exposure because they were employed in labor jobs such as construction jobs that used asbestos products. Second hand asbestos exposure, on the other hand, was more prevalent among women and children. It was common for men who worked with asbestos to unknowingly bring asbestos to their homes on their tools, skin, hair, shoes, and even clothes. Unfortunately, even today, people are still at risk of second hand asbestos exposure because asbestos is still in many American buildings and products. Today, a construction worker can, for instance, bring asbestos fibers home after renovating or demolishing an asbestos-contaminated house.

Second hand asbestos exposure is a type of non-occupational asbestos exposure. Second hand asbestos exposure is also called secondary, para-occupational, or take-home exposure. Repeated second hand asbestos exposure can be just as risky as primary asbestos exposure. Therefore, it is incorrect for anyone to assume that people who have not worked with asbestos cannot get mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Being repeatedly exposed to asbestos fibers by a worker who brings home asbestos fibers can cause asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

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