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Asbestos exposure is largely seen as a problem of the 20th century, when asbestos, a flame-retardant material, was widely used in an array of products from insulation to brakes.
But we will continue to see the effects of this product because far too many property owners aren’t careful with renovation and demolition projects. The fact is, asbestos is still in many older buildings. Generally, if the materials are in good condition, the asbestos isn’t harmful. It becomes an issue when those materials are disturbed and the asbestos becomes friable and airborne.
When this occurs, the fibers are breathed into the lungs and can stay there, causing scarring and resulting in cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.
That’s why there are very specific rules about how and when professional abatement teams must work, including to safely seal or remove the material during renovation or demolition projects.
Recently in Titusville, plans to demolish the former Miracle City Mall along U.S. 1 has been halted due to a discovery of more asbestos on site than previously believed.
Developers have planned to tear down the existing mall and build a $60 million shopping center that will include both office and retail space. But they can’t do anything until a massive amount of asbestos is safely removed. Although the company won’t comment on costs, they do say that it’s going to set them back at least a month or two. In the construction world with a project this large, that could cost many thousands of dollars.
And that’s why most companies try to sidestep the rules. They don’t hire professionals to remove it. They don’t protect the workers they do have moving it. They don’t safely transport the asbestos or dispose of it. They don’t warn the public. They put many, many people at risk when they fail to properly contain or remove asbestos from a building site.
Owner and operators can face substantial fines and possibly even criminal action if found guilty of such behavior. However, sometimes it’s a gamble they are willing to take — which should give you an idea of the costs of proper asbestos abatement and disposal.
But the cost of not doing the right thing could mean workers, their families, and the public contract a serious, terminal disease in years to come. Asbestos-related disease typically does not manifest until years after exposure.
Companies that participate in this kind of cover-up may be liable for damages or possibly even medical monitoring costs for those exposed.
It seems the developer in Titusville isn’t likely to run into those issues on this project, since it has chosen to halt all work until the asbestos has been removed. Sealing the product was not an option because this was a demolition and not a renovation. The developer did indicate it had planned a contingency for unexpected costs such as these, which is smart. It’s when companies try to cut corners that people get hurt.
Usually, one cannot tell just by looking if a material contains asbestos. It’s only through a thorough inspection that one can be sure.
Florida statutes require asbestos inspections for certain renovations and for all demolitions. The law also mandates asbestos must be properly handled, removed, and disposed of. Records of the entire process must be properly maintained.
Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm by calling (888) 554-2030. Offices in Miami and Washington, D.C.
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