School’s Asbestos Abatement Project Raises Questions—and Anxiety

12/06/2010 // Chicago, IL, USA // Cooney & Conway // National Mesothelioma Attorneys Cooney & Conway

As workers in head-to-toe protective suits removed and hauled away asbestos-laden material from a Virginia Beach, Va., middle school, parents and their children expressed concern about the grave potential health risks of this abatement project.

“To me, having guys dressed in Hazmat outfits and the kids walking by 20 to 30 feet away seemed a bit of a contradiction,” said parent Brenda Sinclair. Other parents noted that the school did not give any forewarning that the asbestos work was to be performed—while children were nearby on the school’s campus.

Asbestos, a popular building material until scientifically linked to deadly diseases including lung cancer and mesothelioma, can still be found in many older structures, including homes, office buildings, and schools. Mesothelioma lawyers and experts have long contended that it is this older, mainly pre-1980 asbestos that poses the most severe health threat, especially when it is improperly removed or handled.

Officials at Virginia Beach Middle School said the asbestos abatement work was required as part of demolishing the old school building to make way for a bus loop, football field, and track on the site.

Brian Riley, superintendent for the contractor, McKenzie Construction Corp., said air monitors have not recorded any worrisome asbestos readings, and workers are spraying the asbestos-containing material with a sealant before disposing of it. The chances of any asbestos becoming airborne are extremely rare, he said.

“They’re taking all the precautions to keep that from happening,” Riley said.

Parents’ concerns about airborne asbestos particles are based on sobering information. They are aware the material can trigger deadly diseases like mesothelioma, a nearly always fatal cancer of the protective lining covering many of the body’s organs. When asbestos is dislodged—typically during renovation or demolition work—particles become airborne, and anyone nearby can easily inhale them.

While diseases like mesothelioma can take many years—even decades—to develop, once diagnosed, a patient’s prognosis is generally grim. Mesothelioma has no cure and no effective long-term treatment. Indeed, mesothelioma lawyers—who have obtained large verdicts and settlements in lawsuits against those who improperly handled or used the material—have seen far greater success than mesothelioma researchers, who are still struggling to understand how to fight the disease.

As for why parents were not given a heads-up about the asbestos work, school officials said they didn’t feel such a warning was necessary, since the demolition did not pose a safety hazard.

A third-party monitor, the officials noted, is on-site to make sure the demolition and asbestos abatement work is being conducted in accordance with regulations of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA. The monitor will remain on-site until work is completed in November.

This news story was brought to you by the Chicago mesothelioma lawyers, 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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