A report published this week in the New York Daily News is raising questions about New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) failure to warn thousands of transit employees of their risk of asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma and other serious illnesses. It’s been months since MTA officials learned the vents that pump air into the East New York bus depot in Brooklyn are nearly all covered asbestos-contaminated cloth, but no notification has been provided to the dozens of high school students who intern at the three-story buildings, nor to their supervisors or any of the other bus operators, maintenance workers, dispatchers or administrative employees who’ve worked in the building for the past several decades.
Asbestos is a carcinogenic material that has been found to cause mesothelioma and other lung diseases when inhaled. The mineral was used to strengthen many different building materials before its dangers were revealed, and in the case of the bus depot it was used in cloth that covered the air vents to reduce vibration. The older and less stable asbestos becomes, the more dangerous it is, as its fibers can break down into tiny particles that are easily inhaled. The MTA air vent cloth has been in place since 1947, when the depot was originally built.
According to reports, MTA officials first found asbestos in the building’s boiler room back in 2017. Though that was removed a year later, no asbestos monitoring program was put in place for those who worked in that area. Then last winter workers noticed the cloth and tested it for asbestos. When the tests came back positive engineers urged that asbestos remediation be done, but officials declined to do so. Instead, the vents were patched. Later more of the cloth was found in similar poor condition, but rather than taking appropriate precautions officials had crews sweep the dust up without appropriate protective gear. Last week union members, engineers and safety administrators toured the area and announced that there was no friable material present.
According to safety official Carl Hamann, “We could have done a better job conveying management’s concern along with what was, and is, being done to ensure their (the workers’) safety. While it has been deemed there is no risk of airborne asbestos from the fan plant, out of an abundance of caution an abatement plan for the remaining fabric is being developed.” In response the head of the city’s bus drivers’ union is hoping that everybody who was exposed will be put onto an asbestos monitoring program. J.P. Patafio said, “Jens seems more worried about being sued than the safety of the workers. If there was asbestos in there, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for my members to be tested.”
Being exposed to asbestos has put countless workers from all walks of life at risk for malignant mesothelioma. If you have been diagnosed with this rare and fatal form of cancer and you need information about your rights, contact us today at 1-800-966-2244.