Worries About Asbestos Are Rising in Massachusetts Renovation Boom

A demolition worker in downtown Boston hesitated recently when he saw cracked floor tile that was glued to the underside of a carpet he was pulling out of an office.

The tiles were old and brown, which are signs that they could have asbestos in them. The employee for Skinner Demolition told his supervisor about what he saw on the site in the fall of 2016, but he was told don’t worry about it and to keep working.

The worker kept working, but he also put some tile into a plastic bag and had it tested at a state accredited lab, ProScience Analytical Services. The tests showed that the tile had enough asbestos in it that workers should be required to wear special breathing masks to filter out dust that contains asbestos.

But this worker and many other workers in the building were only wearing a paper mask; that type of mask will not keep out asbestos dust fibers that are hundreds of times finer than a strand of hair.

The worker told the media later that he had not been trained to safely remove asbestos, and he wished that the company had done something about it.

Asbestos Removal Projects Are Up in Boston

Asbestos built into many old buildings is creating new dangers for laborers in Massachusetts as renovation of old buildings is soaring in the state. Regulators in the state have found at least 300 asbestos safety violations that netted fines in the last five years. Most of them were on building renovation sites.

Workers are finding asbestos that was included in floor tiles and ceilings many decades ago. They also are finding asbestos that was blown into walls, wrapped around heating pipes and boilers and more. The total number of asbestos removal projects in the state hit a high of 23,500 in 2015, which is a 50% increase in five years.

What Are the Legal Options in an Asbestos Case?

Asbestos lawsuits are complicated and if you or a loved one is dealing with an asbestos-related illness, you should seek guidance from an experienced personal injury attorney who knows asbestos case law. A good asbestos injury attorney can help you to work through all of the complications of being sick with mesothelioma or asbestosis, such as the piles of medical bills, insurance companies and much more. As you wait for a settlement or other financial award, you will probably have many unanswered questions:

  • How can I provide for my family?
  • How can I pay the medical bills?
  • Can I work again?
  • Will I be forced to leave my home?
  • How could I ever be able to pay my mortgage?
  • Which company is responsible for my disease?
  • How will my family be provided for when I die?

As you are considering legal options to deal with your asbestos-related medical diagnosis, you should take notes about your case to show to a qualified attorney:

  • Your date of diagnosis
  • The symptoms you have
  • A list of any medical treatments you have had
  • Your history of being exposed to asbestos, including rough dates and companies where you were employed
  • If you are a military veteran, note when you served and where you may have been exposed to asbestos.

There are many state and federal regulations that are supposed to protect the thousands of people that are licensed to remove asbestos, as well as tens of thousands of others who work in the demolition of buildings. But according to an analysis done by WBUR in Boston of five years of asbestos enforcement cases, there are large gaps between the safety standards that have been set in law and what actually happens on site.

Until monitoring of projects started to increase in 2015, the number of job site inspections by state agencies that handle asbestos safety was going down, as demolition and abatement projects were going up quickly. This increased chances that violations could have been missed. The EPA in Massachusetts did 527 site inspections in 2015, which was half of what was done in 2012.

The total number of fines that was handed out by state agencies for asbestos safety violations during that four year period did not always stop recurrences and further lapses in safety. The highest fine that the state’s Department of Labor can hand out is $2500. State environmental department fines can be higher, but the agency often chooses to suspend them.

Experts in the state say it is hard to say how many workers in recent years could have been exposed to asbestos and may eventually develop mesothelioma or asbestosis or lung cancer. It can take up to 40 years for diseases to develop.

However, research in the United Kingdom indicates that asbestos removers have double the risk of dying from diseases that are linked to asbestos than those who worked with it during the manufacturing process.

In media interviews in Massachusetts, workers indicated in 2016 that there are many safety lapses which include poor respiratory protection, poor hazardous material suits, lack of curtains to contain dust, and failure of companies to offer shower facilities to wash off the dust after work.