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Month: April 2013


Casper City Cited for Asbestos Violations

The DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) served the Casper City recently with a warning notice for purportedly failing to carry out asbestos test fully prior to the demolition of a housing building.

Casper contracted with a company called Recycled Materials to inspect an abandoned residential building at 1427 Oakcrest Avenue and the Air Quality Division of the DEQ notified that the contractor failed in sampling sufficient material. Additionally, the sampling of plaster material and lathe and acoustic material’s spray was insufficient, according to DEQ’s notice. Asphalt roofing or floor tiles were not sampled at all, the DEQ notice states.

Robinson Contracting Company had removed asbestos already prior to the visit of the DEQ on 28th February however the inspector collected samples of materials that remained.

An analysis conducted in a laboratory found 15% of asbestos material in floor tiles and 5% in tile adhesive.

Asbestos is the name given to a fibrous mineral found in soil and rock. Once it was extensively used as a fire-resistant and insulating building material. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states exposure to asbestos could be dangerous and result in even deadly diseases such as lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma. So, asbestos is highly regulated in the United States.

Steve Dietrich, the administrator of air quality, said the agency has issued a notice to the city as well as contractors.

“Both of them have same responsibility,” Dietrich said.

All the cases are separate. The further step for them is to talk with the DEQ for working towards a resolution. According to Dietrich, the meeting will give a chance for the contractor or the city to show any additional info.

The notice sent by DEQ states that breaches are punishable by fines of up to $10000 per day of violation took place or/and an injunction. According to Dietrich, fines are to be calculated and could vary depending on each case’s circumstances.

“We take the regulations concerning asbestos materials very seriously. We primarily want to protect the workers as well as the public,” Dietrich said.

The City Council approved a demolition project report and US$4,701 lien on the property on 16th April. John Patterson, the City Manager, didn’t have details regarding the DEQ case’s status. However, he said the structure had remained vacant for years.

“Finally we took down it for abating the nuisance as it was creating problems in the locality,” Patterson said.


Defendants Move Asbestos Case to Federal Court

One of the 2 dozen or more defendant companies in a lawsuit over asbestos-related lung cancer has removed the case to a federal court.

United Technologies Corporation filed a notice on Monday for removing the lawsuit filed by William Wood in July 2012 from Madison County Court to United States District Court for Illinois’ Southern District.

UTC, along with 27 other defendant companies, was sued by Wood over the lung cancer he developed because of his exposure to the asbestos products made, sold or used by the companies.

Wood worked as a construction and manufacturing worker and electrician between 1960 and 1981. As part of his job, he spent his time at a number of work sites in West Virginia and Ohio, according to the complaint.

Stating that the defendant companies should’ve known regarding the risks linked to asbestos exposure, the 8-count suit filed by Wood is seeking approximately $50000. The companies are sued for their alleged negligence, wanton and willful misconduct, conspiracy, strict liability and negligent elimination of evidence.

Steven Aroesty, a Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik LLC attorney, is representing Wood.

Wood has filed 2 or more other asbestos-related lung cancer lawsuits in Madison County since year 2012.

According to the lawsuit, the defendant companies failed to warn the workers regarding the health risks associated with the handling of asbestos products. Neither did they provide them with any sort of protective equipment for preventing them to be exposed to the dangerous cancer-causing mineral, the suit states. They failed to keep a safe environment for the workers and negligently exposed them to the toxic fibres of asbestos, the plaintiff alleges.

The most frequent source of asbestos exposure in the United States is workplace. In spite of their knowledge regarding the health risks it posed, many companies in the United States used asbestos material in their facilities, putting the workers at the risk of developing fatal asbestos-linked diseases such as asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Asbestos exposure generally occurs at work places like construction sites, navy vessels, shipyards etc. Many people have been exposed to the dangerous substance during construction, renovation and demolition of commercial structures. Those who work in the close vicinity of insulated piping and boilers are also at risk. Additionally, staff and students in old school buildings could be at risk because almost old buildings in the nation still contain asbestos, especially in floor tiles, ceiling tiles and insulation.


State Cites Paterson City for Asbestos and Other Safety Violations

Paterson, NJ – The state Department of Labor (DoL) has found that Paterson City officials committed thirteen serious violations concerning employee health when a number of municipal employees were exposed to dangerous asbestos fibers at the time of a renovation project carried out in the office last year.

The Department of Labor inspection report that was issued March 2013 says the Paterson City did not provide adequate oversight, monitoring, training and safety devices to the workers who peeled tiles containing asbestos from the 2nd floor offices located at 133 Ellison St.

According to the report, for each of its violation, the city is facing a fine of approximately $4500 per day with effect from 18th April if the city does not abide by the safety requirements of the state. The state wouldn’t disclose if any of the fines have been imposed by this time as the case still remains open.

Following the Asbestos investigation, the state Department of Labor carried out 5 extra safety checks at the public work facilities of the city and discovered thirty serious violations. The violations likely carry fines between $2400 and $3600, the DoL documents indicate. However, these violations do not involve asbestos.

Asbestos worries prompted the health department of the city to halt the renovation project in 2012 December. According to officials, the area has been closed since then. Now the city is in an attempt to hire a private firm for removing the dangerous pollutants from its offices.

The Sheriff’s Department of Passaic County is also carrying out a probe into the situation as Paterson purportedly used SLAP (Sheriff’s Labour Assistance Program) inmates for handling asbestos – a known cancer-causing material that is still present in old buildings.

Michael Jackson, the president of the public works department employees’ union, said he does not think state would impose any penalties as the city has already stopped the renovation project that involves asbestos material.

“I am happy that story is out there and now we are needless to bother about it occurring once again,” Jackson said.

Jeffrey Jones, the City Mayor, said he hasn’t yet seen the report issued by the state inspectors. He said that the city requires to implement training program for its employees whoever work in old structures where asbestos and lead are a common presence.

“We really do not like to put anybody at risk,” Jones said.


North Shore District 112 School Teacher Raises Questions regarding Asbestos Abatement

IL – An Illinois school district (the North Shore District 112) had been fined 2 years back for various violations in connection with asbestos abatement projects at a number of its school buildings. The projects were done in year 2007. However, a teacher is seeking answers still.

Steve Bartel, a 5th grade teacher in a Lincoln School, recently approached the school board to ask whether it has cleared the asbestos violations occurred over past several years and to inform the staff as well as the public regarding what happened. She asked not to keep that quiet anymore.

Sherwood and Indian Trail schools were stopped in 2007 July as the IL Public Health Department found record-keeping and asbestos abatement violations. Work was allowed to restart after one month, and the school district maintains that testing on air quality has proved any one’s health wasn’t put at risk in any facilities of it.

Bartel is concerned that asbestos abatement work carried out a year back – in year 2006 – at several schools including Lincoln might have went unnoticed. Those school buildings were probably left dirty, as indicated by what occurred at Elm Place, Indian Trail and Sherwood schools, Bartel says.

However, the officials with the District 112 say that they are fully confident the project was carried out properly.

“There hasn’t been any issue where we are worried regarding anybody’s health being put at risk,” says Bruce Hyman, the President of the School Board.

Andi Rosen, the spokeswoman for the school district, says air quality tests have been carried out on all the school facilities after asbestos abatement, as required by law. He said those tests were conducted by another company – not the company that performed asbestos abatement.

“There wasn’t any indication of hazard. All the projects got clearance afterward. If they’d any worried regarding those works that would’ve been investigated before,” Rosen said.

She says the breaches came from an authorized subcontractor which was carrying out the job in year 2007 and the works in year 2006 were done by a different contractor.

“School districts do not take on such works with employees of their own. We rely on authorized contractors who have license to handle this type of work,” Rosen said.

Exposure to asbestos may cause serious respiratory problems later in life and, at times, it can cause terminal diseases including cancer.


Smokers with Asbestosis have Increased Risk of Developing Lung Cancer

Smokers with a history of asbestos exposure have an increased chance to develop lung cancer if they have a lung condition known as asbestosis, a recent study says.

However, giving up smoking following long-term exposure to asbestos can significantly decrease the chance of developing asbestos-related cancer, according to the study.

“The interaction between smoking, asbestos exposure and asbestosis and their effect on risk of lung cancer are partly understood,” said Dr. S Markowitz, the professor of occupational & environmental medicine with the Earth and Environmental Sciences School at Queens College, NY City, said during a press release.

The study has been published online on 12th April in the American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine. For the research, scientists went through the medical records of nearly 2000 asbestos workers and approximately 54000 other workers without any history of asbestos exposure.

“We discovered that all the individual risk factors were linked to the increased chance to develop lung cancer. However, combination of the 2 risk factors poses an extra risk and the blend of all the three factors could increase the risk by 37 times,” Markowitz said.

Nonsmokers with a history of exposure to asbestos had death rates more than 5 times when compared with the individuals in the other group. When asbestos exposure combines with smoking, lung cancer death rate is 28 times more, according to the researchers.

Asbestosis – a scarring of lungs resulted by the breathing of fibres of asbestos – increases the risk, the researchers say. According to the study, the lung cancer death rates are 37 times more for smokers who have asbestosis.

However, lung cancer death rates could be reduced significantly if asbestos workers stop smoking. In the initial decade after giving up, lung cancer death rates reduced from 177 per 10000 to 90 per 10000 among those who quit smoking.

“The study provides clear evidence that exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer through various mechanisms. The important thing is that we also found that giving up smoking significantly reduces the risk of contracting lung cancer,” Markowitz said.

The authors of the study informed that their discoveries were incomplete by the reality that the smoking status of men and their asbestosis were evaluated just once and that a few of the workers in the control group (group of workers without asbestos exposure) also could’ve had some unknown asbestos exposure.


Mesothelioma Victim’s Widow Fights for Justice

A factory worker’s widow has started a legal battle for compensation in an asbestos-related case. Her husband – a Black Country plant worker – died recently after developing an industrial disease caused by inhalation of lethal asbestos fibers.

Ralph E Owen, of Toys Ln, Halesowen, was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres, in a hospital in 2011 October. The man succumbed to the disease on 21st March when he was 61 years old.

Coroner Robin Balmain heard an inquest on 28th March and ruled that Owen’s death was caused by an industrial illness.

Realizing that he would die soon, Suspicious Owen started his own investigation into the conditions at 2 companies where he’d worked – Reliance Plating & Heat Treatment, from 1968 to 1976, and Archibald Kenrick & Sons, from 1984 and 1985. Reliance Plating is located in Wolverhampton and Archibald is located in W. Bromwich.

Owen’s widow Susan is now continuing the investigation to find out the truth with the assistance of a law firm that has office in Birmingham. Susan is 50 years old. Owen married her just one year ago.

Susan is now requesting her husband’s former colleagues who could provide her with additional details regarding how her husband came in touch with dangerous asbestos.

“Ralph’s mesothelioma diagnosis was a huge blow to both of us, denying us the future that we had planned together. Though I win the case, I know that won’t bring back my husband. However, Ralph wanted me to go ahead with the battle for justice,” she said.

“Before his tragic and early death, Mr. Ralph had been able to give us some valuable information regarding the working conditions at the 2 factories. Both the plants are no longer functioning,” Susan’s attorney said.

Reliance made electroplated steel tubes and used huge degreasing tanks for their production process. According to Ralph, the company used asbestos in the tanks because of its heat-resistant quality. Ralph had to crawl under the tanks where asbestos dust was often present on the floor, according to Susan’s attorney.

And, when working with Archibald, Ralph had jobs in the company’s powder coating factory. Ralph had told that old pipework in that factory contained asbestos. The pipework, when rattled with heat, sent asbestos dust clouds into the surroundings, the lawyer said.

For helping Susan, we would like to hear from Ralph’s colleagues who can provide us further details regarding how he inhaled asbestos fibers during his work, the attorney said.


3 Plead Guilty to Violating Asbestos Regulations

Rudy Buendia, Patrick Bowman and Joseph Cuellar all pleaded guilty to a felony count of violating the NESHAP (National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants) regulations regarding the carcinogenic material.

Under the contract with the federal prosecutors, Cuellar and Bowman are facing 27 months in federal prison while Buendia is facing 24 months. They will be sentenced on 3rd June by Judge Lawrence O’Neill.

All the 3 would be eligible to be released once they complete serving 85% of the sentences they receive. The 3 men will remain free, awaiting sentencing.

Rudy Buendia, Patrick Bowman and Joseph Cuellar are 50, 46 and 73 years old respectively.

The 3 men were in vital supervisory positions with company called Firm Build. They allegedly used 9 high school students to get rid of asbestos material from Automotive Training Centre located at Castle Commerce Centre from 2005 September to 2006 March in order to cut corners on one renovation project.

Benjamin Wagner, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of CA, said convictions of the trio send an obvious message.

“Exposing subcontractors and children at a work site to cancer-causing asbestos without taking any safety precautions, and that also for cutting corners and making profits, is far more than reckless – it’s criminal,” said Wagner.

Wagner said the guilty pleas by the trio will stand as a clear warning that whoever neglects environmental regulations for saving money would definitely be prosecuted and face imprisonement.

Though the federal proceedings against the 3 defendants are likely to close, they are facing state charges now in the Superior Court in Merced County.

“We don’t have the intention to dismiss the case right now,” said Larry Morse, the Merced District Attorney, when asked regarding the settlement of the federal case. Morse said the trio’s federal court convictions confirm certain important facts that we’ve accused from the very beginning of the case and our investigation.

The offices of Ralph Temple and Kirk McAllister, the lawyers represented Bowman and Buendia, did not respond to the calls seeking comment.

Douglas Foster, the lawyer represented Cuellar, told his client could’ve faced substantially more time had the case been gone for trial.

As instructed by the defendants, the students removed asbestos, a known carcinogen, without using any protective equipment and taking any safety measures, the court documents indicate. Asbestos-related cancer could take several decades to appear.


Hotel Fined for Exposing Customers to Asbestos

Customers at a hotel in Folkestone (England) could have inhaled asbestos fibers and dust at the time of renovation work, according to a recent report.

It took place during the transformation of the Pavilion wing of Britannia Grand Burstin Hotel in Folkestone Harbour between Feb 2010 and July 2010.

While the renovation work on the wing was being performed, Britannia Grand’ restaurant was open – even though its bosses were aware of the fact that potentially deadly asbestos material was present in the work site.

The hotel was issued a fine of £160,000 after it admitted guilty to the charges of violating safety regulations intended to reduce the risk of public being exposed to toxic dust and fibres of asbestos. In the United Kingdom, Britannia owns 35 hotels.

A Canterbury Crown Court Judge criticized the hotel for breaking the authorized procedure of hiring licensed firms for removing the cancer-causing material. Instead, the hotel used its own in-house employees who were not at all experienced in the job. None of those staff members had been given any specialist training either for recognizing the threat.

Judge Hon. Simon James presided over the case. He was told that prior to the beginning of the work, the hotel had asked a report which indicated the chance of presence of asbestos material in the building. However, Britannia Grand failed to order for a detailed probe into the hazards before asking the work to begin on the building. The hotel was planning to build 53 additional bed rooms.

It was just a few weeks later that the dangerous material was found and specialists were brought in for dealing with the risk. But, by then, diners and workers had been exposed to and possibly inhaled dangerous particles of asbestos.

Mark Balysz, with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), informed the court that the prosecution was after a probe and potential asbestos exposure to the hotel customers and staff.

“All through the construction job, the restaurant that situates on the ground floor was opened and this means the lobby was shared by the construction workers and guests,” Balysz said.

Balysz said that asbestos-linked diseases topped in year 2010 – with 2300 cases. “And most of them were fatal,” Balsyz said.

“Inhaling asbestos dust and fibres can cause severe damage to the human lungs and it could cause cancer as well. Asbestos-related cancer has no cure,” he said.


OSHA Cites Greater Portland PAL for Asbestos Violations

The Oregon (OR) Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has recently cited the nonoperational Police Activities League (PAL) of Greater Portland for 3 health violations, following the asbestos finding in 2 restrooms in the Police Activities League youth centre in E. Portland.

The citations, initially reported yesterday (April 1, 2013) by the newsgroup “The Skanner”, came from a complaint that had been filed with the occupational safety agency on 5th November – more than 3 months before the PAL folded beneath the financial duress and provided the youth centre to Portland’s Boys and Girls Clubs.

Compliance officers were sent by OSHA to the Police Activities League Bud Monnes Centre on Northeast 172 Ave on 18th December as response to a complaint filed on 5th November by a staff member that roof was leaking upon the light fixtures. The complaint also stated that the ceiling contained dangerous asbestos material.

Asbestos is a substance known to cause cancer. The material is made up of small, microscopic fibers. These tiny fibers can become airborne when asbestos is damaged, broken or disturbed. Airborne asbestos fibres could be breathed in by anyone passing through the area. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause serious respiratory disorders and/or fatal diseases including cancer later.

The officers did not find any leaks. However, the asbestos investigation by the OSHA was finished last month. The investigation found 2 serious violations in connection with the asbestos discovered in the deteriorated ceiling tiles in the restrooms for girls and a staff restroom and closet.

A media which visited the youth centre located at Glisan Street and 172nd Ave 2 months ago – during its initial week as Boys and Girls Club – the door of the restroom for men was bent as well as cracked. Additionally, the white tiles held brown stains, including close to a fire alarm. The parking lot’s parking signs was disabled and had dropped their poles, the media report indicates.

One of the reliable benefactors of PAL was the Portland City. Since year 2008, the Portland city has provided US$368,000 to PAL, even as workers and parents at the at-risk youth program complained that the facility at East Portland was dangerous as it was crumbling and leaking.

Now the Boys and Girls Clubs say the youth centre is highly worn out and that they might simply tear it down and construct a new one.