07/13/2010
Jefferson County, Oregon, Mesothelioma News – School District Fine Underscores Dangers- and Difficulties of – Asbestos Removal

When Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) slapped a local school district with $33,000 in penalties, it seemed, at first glance, to be a sizable—if not earth-shattering—fine for shoddy renovation work.

But the work involved asbestos removal at an elementary school, making the monetary penalty the least of the community’s worries. Asbestos exposure—long linked to deadly diseases including cancer and mesothelioma—is particularly hazardous for school-age children, because asbestos-related diseases often take decades to develop, potentially striking them in the prime of their lives.

The work by School District 509-J in Jefferson County, which took place in summer 2009 at Metolius Elementary, involved the removal of some 260 square feet of asbestos-containing floor tiles from the school’s kitchen. The DEQ found that in doing so, workers likely released harmful asbestos fibers into the area while students were attending summer school.

It’s a particularly alarming scenario, because asbestos is most hazardous when airborne—often the result of being dislodged during renovation or demolition. Asbestos fibers can be easily inhaled by anyone in the vicinity of the material, and that exposure can lead, years later, to diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma, a nearly always fatal cancer of the protective lining covering many of the body’s organs, including the lungs, heart, and abdomen.

While asbestos regulations have been enacted by all states, violations are common. Asbestos removal work can be expensive, and difficult. It requires contractors and property owners to be vigilant, testing for the material and making sure that any asbestos removed or handled is done so properly. Workers and others nearby also need to be properly protected by special clothing or sufficient warnings.

Asbestos lawsuits have long focused on the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products. But many are now being brought against employers, contractors, and building owners who knew—or should have known—that asbestos was present, but did little or nothing to reduce the danger of contact with asbestos, and the resulting health risks.

For all the efforts of regulators to get contractors and owners to do the right thing regarding asbestos, all too often justice has to come in the courtroom, with mesothelioma lawyers seeking—and often obtaining—substantial awards for those whose lives have been impacted, and cut short, by asbestos-related disease.

The Jefferson County fine may be a penalty, but it is also a warning: Especially in school settings, asbestos must be handled—and disposed of—carefully and safely.

This news story was brought to you by the mesothelioma lawyers at Cooney & Conway.  For more than half a century, we’ve brought relief—and recovery—to those injured by the negligence or harmful actions of others. In the process, we’ve litigated some of the country’s most significant asbestos lawsuits, helping victims of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases get answers—and justice.

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