The Risk Of Mesothelioma: Demolition

risk of mesothelioma, mesothelioma risk, building destruction

When buildings or structures are demolished, they eventually become condensed into rubble. While the demo work is in progress, structural remains are salvaged, recycled, or hauled away for disposal. Once the structure is down, the site property is then cleaned, tested, and inspected before the work is considered complete. The type of construction work described here is widely known as demolition- and if not handled properly runs a risk of mesothelioma.

Demolition work involves more than just tearing down buildings or standing structures with heavy equipment. Most informed critics might say you need permission, permits, insurance, the necessary equipment, and skilled personnel, to get the job done. Although these suggestions may apply to construction work in general, there are more variables involved with demolition.

Asbestos A Harmful Worksite Variable Involved With Demolition

Whether present or not, a familiar worksite hazard demolition crews have to deal with is asbestos. Asbestos is classified into six types of minerals that are found naturally in the earth. The six minerals comprised of fibrous bundles known as asbestos and all types are carcinogenic. Before the 1980s, asbestos was heavily present within buildings in applications for insulation, flooring, ceiling, siding, roofing, and paint coatings. Asbestos exposure can cause lung disease, lung cancer, and poses a risk for mesothelioma cancer.

When demolition work occurs, structures being demolished will churn up residual dust from structural material remains, which may contain asbestos, and then be dispersed into the air. Once the particulates become airborne, they are likely to become inhaled or swallowed. These particles can settle inside the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or pericardium.

Over time, the chance of developing lung disease or the risk of mesothelioma cancer is dependent on the length of time the exposure to asbestos occurred. Mesothelioma cancer is exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos. Studies show that long-term consistent exposure to asbestos is no longer a stipulation for developing advanced lung disease, cancer, or mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure can actually accelerate the contraction of lung cancer in smokers, and mesothelioma cancer development can develop within a decade. Therefore, the risk for mesothelioma is high with exposure to asbestos.

Pre- Demolition Inspection Instead of a Pre-Bid Walk

Before demolition contractors are allowed to bid on a future demo project, property owners or project personnel should obtain a pre-demolition inspection. These inspections are done before contractors even ‘walk’ or evaluate a site for bidding purposes.

Pre-demolitions inspections are recommended because they can identify environmental, safety, and atypical worksite issues before contractors or bidders quote a demolition job. Any problems identified in the pre-inspection may help determine if environmental work or other tasks should be bid or performed separately in addition to the demolition work. In turn, this may also give owners more competitive bids from contractors, even to cutting costs because of having the option to either separate or consolidate the additional work. This inspection also reveals hazards that may pose as a risk for mesothelioma.

Demolition Site Duties, Work Plans, And Evaluations

While organizing demolition project duties, there will be inspections, permits, and tests, property owners and contractors need to retain. These requirements are necessary to comply with local, state, and federal agency regulations. Not all construction projects are the same, but there is a required obligation for responsible parties to preserve the safety, health, and environment during every job as negligence can lead to dire consequences such as the risk for mesothelioma.

OSHA (Occupational Safety And Health Administration) General Duty Clause

As a general rule, all worksites are to abide by OSHA’s General Duty Clause. The clause establishes an overall requirement for employers to provide a workplace that is free of hazards that can cause death or severe harm.

The clause states that:

 (a) each employer (1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees; (2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this chapter. (b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this chapter which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

Demolition Worker Safety and Health Management Guidelines

Safety management programs are required to be followed by demolition crew leaders and personnel. Basic guidelines outlined by OSHA, recommend specific actions implemented and organized under four general elements. The four general elements OSHA lists to help achieve a successful safety, and health program are:

1)    Management commitment and employee involvement;

2)    Worksite analysis;

3)    Hazard prevention and control, and

4)    Safety and health training

Inspectors Observe If Regulatory Requirements Are Met

Today, construction work practice standards require owners, contractors, and craftspeople to abide by set rules and regulations. Some construction trades or projects will either need more or less regulatory requirements. Regulatory requirements are primarily dependent upon the size and scope of work to be done, but all tasks must address environmental safety hazards that may be involved with the project to deter and prevent terminal consequences such as the risk of mesothelioma.

Government Inspectors may be referred to as inspectors, enforcement officers, or compliance investigators. Their primary purpose at your site is to observe whether regulatory requirements are being met and not to provide compliance assistance or consulting services. Some federal and state inspectors may not conduct their activities in the same manner.

Inspectors may also visit a site in response to a complaint or a report of potential problems at a site. Demolition projects will likely be inspected by more than one government agency on more than one occasion.

Demolition Or Renovation Is Regulated By Asbestos NESHAP Work Practice Standards

The Asbestos NESHAP regulation establishes a national work practice standard that is designed to limit emissions of asbestos from a variety of tasks that include demolition. The work practice standard describes the steps that must be taken during demolition tasks if asbestos may be present and identifies actions that are prohibited.

Historically, the asbestos NESHAP was publicized in 1973, and coined regulations for manufacturing, fabricating new products, demolition practices, and limited spray-on insulation to 1% asbestos content. The EPA banned fireproofing spray in 1978. In 1989, the EPA proposed a ban on asbestos in manufactured products, but two years later, the United States Court of Appeals vacated and remanded most of the 1989 rule.

Due to the court’s ruling, asbestos imports continue to be used in the United States in building materials such as industrial fireproof clothing, roofing felts, roofing shingles, roof coatings, and automotive brake pads and gaskets. Here imported asbestos from Russia, the primary supplier of asbestos to the United States, images of President Donald J. Trump printed on the sides of wrapped asbestos that we purchase from the nation. Although asbestos mining has been banned in the United States, asbestos is still legal for limited use here in the States. For decades, the mineral fiber was exhaustively used as a staple in many building products and construction applications. But, the last twenty or thirty years have seen a dramatic drop in use in the industry due to new regulations and the known hazards associated with asbestos in general.

Asbestos NESHAP regulates any demolition or renovation operation at an institutional, commercial or industrial building. Residential buildings with less than five habitable units are excluded from the Asbestos NESHAP regulation. In accordance, with the EPA, the exclusion does not apply if the residential buildings are part of a project that also demolishes any institutional, commercial, public, or industrial structure, installation, or building or demolishes a total of more than four residential dwelling units.

Undertake a Thorough Inspection Before Starting a Demo

Before starting a demolition or renovation project, a thorough inspection of where the worksite is located and the work that needs to be done shall be undertaken. At a minimum, the thorough inspection requirement guideline from NESHAP must be applied. Each site should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, to be included in the work plan useful practices for the management and control of asbestos-containing material (ACM).

Next, the owner or project manager will need to notify the proper local or state authority before beginning any demolition or renovation work to the structure[s] that contain more than a certain amount of regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM) in order to evaluate the risk of mesothelioma. The notification requirements apply to any demolition or renovations above a certain threshold amount of regulated asbestos-containing material.

Regulated Asbestos Containing Material (RACM) Generally More Than 1 %

Under the Asbestos NESHAP, regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM) generally includes any asbestos-containing material (ACM) that contains more than 1 percent asbestos is friable ( able to be crumbled when dry) or has the potential to become friable and release asbestos during demolition.

When a demolition site has asbestos-containing materials (ACM) measuring above the threshold amount, generally above 1%, then the content is classified as regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM). At this point, the (RACM), is required to be removed before the demolition stage begins. On the other hand, there are exceptions to the removal of asbestos before demolition may apply, but only if specific criteria are met. A few exceptions to removing asbestos before demolition may apply if: the material is a Category I (ACM) that is not friable and in good condition; the material is encased in concrete or similar material and is adequately wet whenever exposed during demolition; the material was inaccessible during testing and cannot safely be removed; or the material is a Category II nonfriable (ACM) and has a low probability of becoming pulverized, crumbled or turned into powder during construction.  

Manage Demolition Wastewater- Environmental Management Plans (EMPS)

When a building is torn down, dust, including asbestos, is typically controlled by a water spray. This dust may be comprised of pulverized construction materials, including cement dust, wood fibers, plastic, and asbestos fibers. Lack of proper planning would allow demolition water to seep into the soil and churn into a slurry. If the ground is turned into a slurry, the asbestos fibers could drift away from the site and contaminate the surrounding area. When the area dries out, the fibers are then susceptible to becoming airborne. If the site is improperly handled and left idle, the asbestos fibers present will be a hazard to anyone coming in or around the premises and also pose a risk for mesothelioma.

Environmental Management Plans- Preparatory And Field Plans

Environmental management plans are divided into two important areas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These two areas are 1) Preparatory plans- advanced planning and allocation of resources 2) and Field plans- demolition tasks, operational procedures, and site remediation. The main goal of these two plans, when applied to structurally unsound demolition, is to prevent demolition wastewater from leaving the worksite.

Environmental Management Plans- Primary Consideration In Demolition Projects

EMP plans can be used to advise demolition contractors, inform local and State environmental offices, and EPA officials of effective methods to minimize the release of asbestos particles, and to reduce the movement of asbestos particles from particles that have been soaked by water during a demolition. Having a robust emergency management plan in place can be an exceptional tool to prevent soaked asbestos particles from re-entry into the environment.

In turn, these plans are suggested by the EPA to be a primary consideration in all building demolition projects that have the potential for asbestos exposure, in particular, buildings that are declared structurally unsound and in danger of collapsing as they pose the highest risk for contracting mesothelioma.

Post Demolition Clean Up And Site Restoration (Post Project Activities)

After a building or structure is demolished, the work is still far from done. If asbestos was involved with the demolition project, additional steps or guidelines must be followed to complete the project. Some of these steps include but are not limited to:

Segregate Asbestos-Containing Waste Materials

Cleanup Activities

Post Demolition Filter of Berms/ Wastewater/Filtered Material

and Post Demolition Project Wastewater Testing.

Isolate Asbestos-Containing Waste Materials

Whether the project is in full swing or the final structure has been downed, asbestos-containing materials should be stored inside a building or covered in a contained area. Contractors must keep spill kits and containment areas available for waste or asbestos-contaminated waste material at all times. The number of spill kits, tanks, filters, water filters, berms, vac trucks, and other containment units should mirror the size of the project.

Contractor Must Have Spill Kits and Absorbent Materials Ready 

If a spill does occur on the worksite, the contractor must follow federal spill reporting guidelines. All notices must be expedited to the proper authorities. If solid materials such as absorbent pads, filter cakes, or other disposable bins are used, then they must be treated as solid waste. All absorbent material used to clean up a spill must be collected as a solid and placed in proper disposal containers.

Cleanup, Label, And Containment

All asbestos waste material must be contained, labeled, kept wet, and be appropriately disposed of within a reasonable time or when the waste is accepted. Containment barriers, such as silt fence[s], site water filters, filter cakes, and demolition debris that could not be removed or placed before the project started, should be disposed of within a reasonable time.

 Other barriers, such as end dumps, roll-off boxes, waste bins, or vacuum trucks, may be cleaned and reused. All other items must be labeled correctly and disposed of in the proper container, landfill, or recycling place.

Post Demolition Filter of Berms/ Wastewater/Filtered Material

A primary task for demolition contractors to manage is the capture, containment, filter, and disposal of demolition wastewater from the project. Wastewater should be sent off for testing to determine the level of asbestos fiber concentration. When the test results come back, an evaluation can then be done to configure the type of filtration system necessary for the project.

During the demolition stage, water is consistently used to wet and keep the dust down at the worksite. While crane or excavator operators are tearing down standing structures, someone is usually controlling the water flow that is being sprayed during the demo, in order to impede asbestos particles and other contaminants from hovering in the air. As the water is continuously sprayed onsite, the fibers are also draining and settling in containment areas, low-lying areas, soil, and numerous places on the demo site.

Over time, the buildup of asbestos fibers without proper management will drain or pool up into highly concentrated spots of asbestos fibers. As a result, if not adequately captured, contained, filtered, and disposed of, the area will become highly concentrated with asbestos and increase the risk of mesothelioma. If demolition wastewater containment is not handled, then the asbestos will settle. Once settled, the soil and regions around the property will be susceptible to airborne asbestos exposure when dry. As a rule of thumb, wastewater should always be filtered to remove asbestos fibers before disposal.

Water used in demolition work can be a challenge to capture. At times, contractors have to be tactful to configure the most effective method needed for their demo site. Containment systems can be numerous and complex. Dependent on the scope of work required to complete, there might be berms, dams, containment ponds, and built-up settlement retention stations customized for a particular site. At the customized site, water will either be primarily drained into one of those types or either be a safety net for wastewater site run-off.

When the demo water is being collected, there may be a myriad of sediment filters or a graduated filtration system set up to process the wastewater. These filters are designed to capture sediment that contains waste and asbestos-containing materials. Some filters are made for coarse or large particles, medium or secondary residue, and then a finite filter for small particles.

Filtration systems can be retro-fitted for catering to each demolition site’s most effective and efficient methods of processing wastewater. Most filters are double-lined for heavy-duty use and ease of disposal. Other sites may implement settling tanks in place of a graduated filter system. The tanks do not have to be emptied or changed out as often as the graduated filter systems. In turn, the filter systems have to be changed according to the contractor’s emergency management plan (EMP).

Post Demolition Project Wastewater Testing

Demolition water requires testing after filtration for asbestos contamination, and the analysis results to be recorded in the work plan records. The filtered water may be disposed of only in accordance with the local or state POTW requirements. No matter how filtered or clean the wastewater is from a site, do not empty the water into the sewer, storm drain, surface water, or other entity

Waste Hauling Vehicles- Decontamination of Present and Post Demolition Activities

Vehicles and Equipment used to transport demolition waste material may become contaminated with asbestos from working on site. It is recommended that the equipment or trucks be cleaned before leaving the site in order to prevent the further contamination of a wider or foreign area and increase the risk for mesothelioma.

Tractor or truck tires should be inspected for debris removal and rinsed using water while the vehicles are on a solid non-permeable surface such as concrete or asphalt. The vehicle rinse pad may be designed with a slight incline to drain into a collection system containment area or tank. Collecting and managing all rinse water, including the shower and demolition water, is the best guideline. All asbestos-containing waste material must be transported from the demo site within a reasonable amount of time. The waste must be labeled on the containers, placards on the trucks or containers, and with the appropriate waste stream listed. Also, the waste generator and the location where the waste was generated must be classified and identified.

Closer To Preserving Safety, Health, and The Environment

Construction workers can be grouped into a category of individuals who may be subject to consistent asbestos exposure. Today, construction work practice standards and regulatory agency requirements seem more attentive to helping construction workers stay safe from the risk of mesothelioma. There are numerous resources available from OSHA, MSHA, and the EPA accessible to construction personnel. Demolition contractors, workers, and all trades have virtual access to all environmental, safety, and health guidelines these agencies offer.

Past Demolition Workers Exposed to the Risk of Mesothelioma

Regulatory safety and environmental standards are implemented to help the construction industry improve the nature of its worker’s environment. On the other hand, the actions of earlier unsafe work practices could adversely affect past demolition and construction workers. The development of mesothelioma and signs of complications due to asbestos exposure might not become visible or diagnosed for years.

For decades, demolition construction was done well before work practice standards existed. The absence of these standards alone leaves no doubt that workers would have been more susceptible to harmful contact with chemicals and asbestos regardless of the site condition.

Lack of Safety And Environmental Structure Is A Risk

In the past, demolition crews were found to have worked without proper breathing or personal protective equipment (PPE), wastewater management, pre-contamination inspections, and the lack of appropriate preparatory or field emergency management plans. A lack of structure, in addition to preventative measures, can enhance the dangers of any worksite, especially when it comes to asbestos exposure.

Complications from asbestos exposure are difficult to pinpoint and even harder to figure out if or when they might develop. There is no known or set timeframe for lung disease and mesothelioma to occur. The latency period for mesothelioma can be decades and has known to exceed 50 years in some cases.  As a result, this makes it imperative to contact an experienced asbestos attorney if you or a loved one feel that you are suffering from the harmful effects of past asbestos exposure. 

Send Us A Message

Find a mesothelioma lawyer to get started