The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is conducting a probe of the U.S. Department of Agriculture after employees expressed concerns over their risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. The cancer fears have been raised after the agency’s management allegedly failed to provide sufficient notice to its employees about asbestos and lead abatement in the building, which they say is being performed without proper protections. They worry that they are being exposed to carcinogenic particles that could lead to illness in the future.
Asbestos has been identified as the cause of malignant mesothelioma and other serious diseases. It is a material that was used in the construction of many federal buildings, including the Department of Agriculture’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, and as a result the agency began an abatement process earlier this year to remove it from their employees’ work environment. According to a union complaint, that work was initiated without providing employees with enough warning to protect themselves, and is not being performed with the appropriate physical barriers between the abatement project and staff. They fear that they are at risk for breathing in asbestos and lead that is being raised, and accuse the agency of making matters worse by not permitting employees to telecommute.
Protecting people from the risk of mesothelioma during an abatement project means that specific steps need to be taken. According to George Washington University public health professor David Michaels, “The area needs to be enclosed. That barrier has to be in place and impermeable.” Photographs that the union released indicate that there is simply a tarp hanging between the location where the remediation work is being done and employee work areas. Says financial analyst Marjorie Galanos, “USDA has not and is not taking this health problem seriously. It is insulting.” Ms. Galanos lost her father to an asbestos-related disease in 2003.
If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, or any other asbestos-related disease, you need a committed advocate to fight for your rights. Contact us today at 1-800-966-2244.