In 2011, Bay City, Michigan contractor Roy Bradley Sr. was looking for some help that wouldn’t mind doing a little dirty work. So he went to the local homeless shelter and recruited some of the men living there, reports the Detroit Free Press.
He paid them cash and put them to work removing asbestos insulation from pipes located at a jobsite just across the parking lot from the Good Samaritan Rescue Mission, where the men were living at the time.
The workers had no training in asbestos removal, weren’t licensed – of course, and were not provided with protective gear. No water was used to wet the crumbling asbestos and proper disposal was not carried out. Many of the men worked in t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops.
At one point, relates one worker, asbestos dust simply “rained down” from the ceiling and covered everyone inside the old church, which was being converted to a charter school.
Eventually, Bradley faced felony charges related to improper asbestos removal. During his trial, the assistant U.S. district attorney on the case said that promising cash to these desperate men “was a convenient way of getting workers to do work that was very unpleasant, very difficult, and very hazardous at times.” Bradley had also employed an ex-con desperate for work and a known drug addict who may or may not have been high at the time he was working.
In an expose on the subject of using homeless persons, non-English speaking immigrants, and other unsuspecting individuals to perform illegal contracting duties, the Detroit Free Press found myriad examples of less-than-honest contractors like Bradley preying on the less fortunate to do the jobs that should be done by licensed companies.
It’s all done in the name of saving time and money, but certainly at the expense of those hired to tackle these dangerous tasks. Exposure to asbestos, particular old crumbling asbestos, can eventually result in a diagnosis of mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer.
Craig Gestring, an assistant U.S. attorney in Rochester, N.Y., told the newspaper that he has prosecuted several cases that involved workers who were “unskilled, unknowledgeable and are basically patsies…and it’s always done to save a buck.”
Gestring views it as a burgeoning problem throughout the U.S., especially as older buildings are demolished or renovated and contractors cut corners in order to save money.
Asbestos was, at one time, used in literally thousands of construction products, especially insulators. It could also be found in cement, floor and ceiling tiles, drywall tape, textured paint, acoustic ceilings, shingles, siding, and more.
Manufacturers included it in their products because of its heat-resistant properties and its excellent strength. Adding it to cement, for example, would make the product last years longer.
Throughout much of the 20th century, those who were employed in the contracting business, both commercial and residential, were consistently exposed to asbestos dust and, as a result, contractors are high on the list of tradesmen most likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma due to that exposure.
Many have gone on to file legal action against the companies who manufactured asbestos-containing products and were, thus, responsible for their illnesses.