Georgia Demolition Company Fined for Asbestos Removal Violations

The Thompson Building Wrecking Company in Augusta, GA is facing fines of more than $63,000 for suspected asbestos removal violations that occurred during the demolition of a vacant school in Grovetown, GA.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Thompson Building Wrecking for two violations, according to a January 15, 2014 article in Augusta Chronicle. The first, three-part violation alleges the company exposed employees to asbestos-containing materials, failed to perform required airborne monitoring, and failed to mark off areas where asbestos was being removed. OSHA fined
Thompson $14,700 for these violations.

The second violation, as detailed in the citation, is for “willfully” failing to ensure the asbestos-containing materials were properly handled to minimize employee exposure, and resulted in an additional proposed $49,000 fine for Thompson Building Wrecking.

Owner Hiram Thompson is challenging the allegations, saying that the citations are the result of the OSHA inspector’s inexperience and lack of knowledge about asbestos removal procedures. While OSHA recently offered to reduce the fines, Thompson says he expects to have the fines dismissed outright.

“We’re a 52-year-old company and we’ve never had an OSHA violation in our 52 years,” Thompson said in the Augusta Chronicle article. “All our people were trained and worked within the specifications of asbestos abatement.”

It was commonplace for buildings constructed during the 1940s to contain asbestos. No one seems to be questioning whether or not the vacant school did contain asbestos. The point of contention is whether or not asbestos-removal practices mandated by OSHA to protect the health of workers were adequately and appropriately followed.

Asbestos Baking Sheets and Other Surprising Uses for a Deadly Material

Hard to believe, but many manufacturers of asbestos-containing products even produced and sold a number of items that were used for cooking. One product in particular, “asbestos baking sheets,” was designed and advertised as a protective sheet of asbestos-infused paper to be placed over a chicken or roast to keep it from burning in the oven.

This is just one of the many surprising uses various manufacturers came up with for asbestos. Once considered the “miracle mineral” of its time, the natural heat resistance and durability of asbestos fibers made it a preferred ingredient in a number of household products—from baking sheets to “protective” table pads.

Even harder to believe is that many of the same manufacturers continued to use asbestos in everyday products long after its adverse health effects became known. Check out the slideshow to see “6 Asbestos Advertisements You Won’t Believe.”

Grandmother Seeks Answers after Developing Mesothelioma

Sandra Anne Peterson believed she was exposed to asbestos decades ago, during her brief career as a factory worker. Now the 57-year-old United Kingdom grandmother is seeking answers after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, the rare but aggressive cancer caused primarily caused by exposure to asbestos.

According to the U.K.-based Shields Gazette, Peterson believes that she was exposed to asbestos while working in two factories as a teenager in the 1970s. In one factory, she made paper cigarette filters. There was a coating used in the manufacturing process, which she called “slurry.” Peterson believes that this coating contained asbestos. “The job was really dirty, and my overalls, face and hands got covered in fine, black dust — it even got up my nose and in my hair,” remembered Peterson. “I believe it contained the asbestos fibers which have made me sick.”

Peterson also believes asbestos fibers were commonly used to insulate electrical components at another factory where she worked from 1975 to 1976. Unfortunately for Peterson and others who labored under similar conditions, there were few, if any protections, to shield them from the toxic asbestos dust. “I was completely unaware of how dangerous asbestos could be back then,” said Peterson. “It is absolutely heartbreaking to think my illness may have been caused by working at these factories when I was a teenager.”

Peterson has retained a law firm experienced in industrial diseases to help her investigate exactly how she was exposed to the asbestos. Together they are seeking her former colleagues — people who may be able to “shed light on how the factories used asbestos and the working conditions she endured, so that we can get her the justice she deserves,” as her attorney put it.

“Sandra and her family are still coming to terms with the sad news she will never recover from this terrible illness, caused by simply going to work at these factories some 40 years ago when she was a teenager,” said her attorney.

Were you exposed to asbestos at a job site and developed mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related condition? You may be entitled to financial compensation in the form of a mesothelioma settlement. To learn more about your legal options, please contact Sokolove Law for a free case evaluation today.

On Labor Day, Remember Manufacturing Workers Exposed to Asbestos

As the unofficial end of summer, Labor Day is a wonderful time to relax with friends and family. But this hard-won “workingman’s holiday” also celebrates the struggles and achievements of the American workers.

So it is fitting that we take time today to remember the hard-working men and women who were unknowingly exposed to asbestos as they strove to make a better life for their families.

Durable, fireproof, and abundant, asbestos was once considered a “miracle mineral.” However, we now know that exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer.

Asbestos exposure has been a serious problem for the American workforce. Between 1940 and 1979, an estimated 27 million workers were exposed to airborne asbestos fibers in the U.S., according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Asbestos was so widely used in manufacturing products of the time that many workers – including oil rig and oil refinery workers, steel mill workers, and paper mill workers – faced a potential risk of exposure.

Asbestos was used in oil field work for its heat-resistant properties. It was used in drilling mud additives and as insulation in oil refinery lines.

In paper mills, asbestos could be found in building materials and paper mill machinery. It was also added to commercial, corrugated, and specialty papers (a use later banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). A news release from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reveals that as many as nine U.S. manufacturers were selling asbestos paper to the public as late as 1980.

Steel mill workers were at high risk of asbestos exposure because of asbestos-containing products used in the industry such as insulation, asbestos millboard, and asbestos expansion allowance sheets.

Symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases may take up to 40 years to appear. So manufacturing workers exposed to asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s are only now being diagnosed.

Asbestos exposure remains a concern for today’s workers. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that around 1.3 million workers in the construction and general industry trades are at risk of exposure on the job.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and believe you were exposed to asbestos, you may be entitled to financial compensation. To learn more about your legal options, contact Sokolove Law for a free consultation.

Is Asbestos Ever Safe?

Is asbestos ever safe? It is a simple enough question, but the answer is complicated and depends largely upon whom you ask. Never assume asbestos is safe.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for example, states, “Asbestos-containing materials that aren’t damaged or disturbed are not likely to pose a health risk.” Another federal agency, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), makes a more definitive statement: “There is no ‘safe’ level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos fiber.”

The key to understanding whether asbestos can ever be safe lies in the words “damaged or disturbed.” If asbestos-containing materials are intact, with no chance of becoming airborne, then there is general agreement among scientists that the asbestos is in relatively safe condition. The real trouble begins when those microscopic asbestos fibers are disturbed or damaged, either through the natural breakdown of asbestos-containing materials that comes with age or during a renovation project. Asbestos fibers that break loose and become airborne are a definite hazard to human health.

Airborne fibers can be inhaled easily and lodge in the lungs, where they cause scarring and inflammation that can lead to mesothelioma (an incurable cancer) and other deadly, asbestos-related diseases. “Every occupational exposure to asbestos contributes to the risk of getting an asbestos-related disease,” states OSHA. Even brief exposure to asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma.

The EPA advises that the best thing to do with any asbestos-containing material in good condition is to leave it alone. Only an accredited asbestos inspector can determine if asbestos fibers have become airborne.

Idaho Men Get Prison for Mishandling Asbestos Pipe

Two men recently received six-month prison sentences for mishandling cement asbestos pipe during a municipal sewer project in Orofino, Idaho.

Bradley Eberhart, 51, of Garden Valley, Idaho, and Douglas Greiner, 53, of Eagle, Idaho, former employees of Owyhee Construction Inc., were sentenced in federal court for violating the asbestos work standards of the Clean Air Act, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The Clean Air Act governs the safe handling of asbestos-containing materials in renovation and construction projects.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge sentenced both Eberhart and Greiner to six months in prison. Eberhart was also ordered to pay $3.9 million in restitution.

Both men had previously pleaded guilty on Feb. 26, 2013.

Greiner was the project superintendent and Eberhart was the onsite supervisor for the sewer project. Federal investigators said that the two didn’t follow proper procedures for removing cement asbestos pipe during the project. Employees were not properly trained in working with asbestos-containing material or outfitted with protective gear while cutting the pipes with saws. Large quantities of the asbestos-coated pipe were also illegally dumped as fill in 16 different locations around the town.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has spent $3.9 million to clean up the locations where the asbestos was dumped.

The EPA’s criminal investigation is ongoing and will now focus on Owyhee Construction Inc. executives.

When asbestos is disturbed, its microscopic fibers are released into the air where they are easily inhaled. Fibers can then become embedded in the linings of the lungs and other internal organs where they cause scarring and inflammation. This can trigger serious health problems such as mesothelioma, an incurable cancer.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation.

Asbestos Discovery Slows Maine Building Renovation

The discovery of asbestos floor tiles is pushing back a planned building renovation in Lewiston, Maine – showing once again how big a problem asbestos can be in older buildings.

As reported in the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal, Argo Marketing was set to move into the 100-year-old McCrory’s department on Lisbon Street when the discovery was made. “Lo and behold, they made the floor tiles in the building out of asbestos,” Argo Marketing CEO Jason Levesque told the newspaper. “So we had to go in and get those abated and find a company, and that pushed everything back.”

Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer. In the U.S., there are about 3,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed each year.

Levesque and his company will have to wait until next month to close on the building and start the planned $2.4 million renovation, according to the Sun Journal. The building is slated to become office space, a café, and retail storefronts.

Asbestos was once widely used in floor tiles because of its strength, durability, and resistance to fire. If asbestos floor tiles are in good condition they likely pose no immediate danger. However, asbestos in any product becomes dangerous when it’s damaged through decay, breakage, or removal.

Asbestos floor tiles can also release asbestos fibers when sanded or when an inappropriate cleaning method is used. The University of Sciences in Philadelphia recommends that only low abrasion pads and wet methods be used in cleaning such floors to avoid the risk of asbestos exposure.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact Sokolove Law today to see if an asbestos attorney can help you.

Ohio Man Enters Guilty Plea in Asbestos Dumping Case

An Ohio man has pleaded guilty to the illegal disposal of asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that can cause the cancer mesothelioma if it is inhaled or ingested.

According to the Toledo Blade, 32-year-old Timothy Bayes entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Court Magistrate James Knepp last week. Sentencing is set for Nov. 18.

As this blog noted, Bayes and John Mayer, 52, were charged in May with violating the Clean Air Act and regulations involving the removal and disposal of asbestos-containing material.

According to the federal indictment, during 2010 Mayer allegedly directed individuals to remove insulation containing asbestos from metal boilers, duct work, and pipes in the basement of a shuttered manufacturing plant he had rented in Toledo. Mayer intended to sell the metal as scrap. He hired Bayes to dump 82 garbage bags containing the asbestos debris at three locations in Toledo: a vacant house, an alleyway, and an unspecified location. However, the law requires that asbestos-containing material be disposed of at a licensed facility.

The United States has had strict regulations around the removal of asbestos-containing products since 1971 when the material was declared a hazardous air pollutant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Exposure to asbestos is linked to serious illnesses including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

If you or a loved one have been exposed to asbestos and were later diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for financial compensation. A successful asbestos lawsuit may provide you and your family with funds for medical bills and other necessities. Call Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation and to find out if an asbestos attorney can help.

Asbestos and Accidents Put Construction Workers in Harm’s Way

The tragic death last week of a construction worker at the San Francisco 49ers’ new football stadium highlights the dangers of the construction industry, historically one of the most hazardous of workplaces.

According to CBS Sports, the 63-year-old man was killed by an elevator counterweight as he labored in an elevator shaft at Levi’s Stadium. Well-known hazards such as falls kill hundreds of American construction workers every year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). But there is another danger on construction sites that is just as deadly to workers — asbestos.

Thought to be a problem of the past, asbestos remains a serious health threat to workers in the construction trades today because it was used in thousands of building products during the 20th century. When asbestos-containing materials such as insulation, fibrous cement, and floor adhesive are cut, sawed, sanded, or otherwise disturbed, microscopic asbestos fibers are released into the air where they can be inhaled or swallowed if safety standards are not enforced.

Exposure to asbestos is the cause of mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer. Although its use has been restricted, asbestos remains legal in the United States and certain products still contain it. As this blog noted, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 2.3 million pounds (or 1,060 metric tons) of asbestos were imported into the U.S. from Brazil in 2012. Forty-one percent of the imported asbestos went into roofing materials.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and believe you were exposed to asbestos, you may be entitled to financial compensation. To learn more about your legal options including filing an asbestos lawsuit, contact Sokolove Law for a free case evaluation.

W.R. Grace and Co. to Pay $250 Million for Montana Asbestos Cleanup

A federal court in Pittsburgh has approved a plan under which W.R. Grace and Co. will reimburse the government $250 million to pay for the investigation and remediation of asbestos contamination in Libby, Montana, where W.R. Grace once operated a vermiculite mine that proved to be a source of the deadly mineral fiber asbestos. Hundreds of people have developed asbestos-related diseases in Libby, and some have died of the illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and malignant mesothelioma. W.R. Grace is required to pay the $250 million within 30 days, and is expected to do so as it agreed to the plan in March. The reimbursement will be handled through the federal government’s “Superfund” cleanup fund, and will be by far the largest ever payment received by the Environmental protection Agency, which administers the program.

To date, the EPA has spent $168 million in Libby and expects to spend another $175 million in coming years; the $250 million payout from Grace will not cover all the expenses, but a prompt payment avoiding years of litigation will permit continuation of the cleanup operation without interruption or needing to seek further funding from Congress. The vermiculite mine and associated processing facilities were owned by W.R. Grace from 1953 until 1990, when they were closed due to the contamination. Millions of tons of contaminated ore were mined, processed, and shipped out of Libby, and were used in insulation, fireproofing, and gardening products around the United States. The primary contamination, however, took place in and around Libby, and that is where cleanup efforts have been focused. Environmental analysts with the EPA said that the cleanup work should be completed within five years. The remediation fee paid in Libby is not expected to interfere with a separate arrangement that W.R. Grace has made to resolve current and future asbestos claim, a deal worth approximately $3 billion in cash and company stock.