It’s usually easy to determine where you’ll find old asbestos materials. The mineral was long used in steel mills, shipyards, textile plants, oil refineries, power plants, and other places where its use seemed quite logical. Asbestos materials were generally earmarked for their fire- and heat-resistant properties and their durability, so finding them in the above-mentioned places wasn’t a surprise.
However, because asbestos was often used in construction products, it can literally be found just about anywhere. For example, there are many cases of school teachers reporting that they were exposed to asbestos at their place of work as the mineral was often used in floor and ceiling tiles used in an institutional setting and can even be found in old stage curtains in school auditoriums.
In the Pittsburgh area, high amounts of asbestos were found in the rubble from the old Monsour Hospital in Jeannette, PA, recently partially demolished after sitting vacant for more than 10 years.
Reports show that buildings in the hospital complex had asbestos-containing floor tiles throughout and asbestos was found in existing adhesives as well. Asbestos had to be removed before demolition, but according to a report by a local Pittsburgh TV station, Action News 4, crews will need to work an extra month to remove additional asbestos discovered when the walls came down on the main building.
Such stories lead those who worked in that hospital building each day to wonder if they suffered exposure. As the hospital aged, materials such as floor tiles were subject to plenty of wear and tear, and any member of the hospital staff could have been likely to inhale airborne friable asbestos fibers from the floors. The building maintenance staff, perhaps, was the most at risk because they cleaned these floors and other surfaces containing asbestos, meaning their exposure was frequent.
Truly, any building – commercial, industrial, or residential – that was constructed prior to 1980 may include materials containing asbestos. Asbestos was used in hundreds upon hundreds of building products including not only tiles but also:
Textured paints and coatings
Shingles and siding
And many others
This is one of the reasons that the demolition of old buildings always presents asbestos-related dangers. If you are not wearing protective gear, you should avoid such sites, even if you’re “just curious”. Airborne asbestos fibers are toxic and could make you sick.
The same is true for renovation projects inside workplaces that are still active. If there’s a chance that asbestos is present, work areas should be sealed off and the work should be done by licensed professionals. If you think your employer is conducting illegal renovations or using unskilled laborers to remove asbestos, you should report them to the proper authorities, most likely your local office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
You have the right to work in a safe environment, and safe means not being exposed to toxic materials.
If you have been negligently exposed to asbestos on the job – no matter where you work/worked – and are now sick, it’s time to consult with an experienced, local mesothelioma attorney. He/she can determine whether or not you have the right to compensation for your injuries.