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Austin changes policy after city workers were exposed to asbestos

Due to the city’s failure to have an adequate asbestos abatement policy in place, as many as 200 Austin city employees may have been exposed to asbestos in four different departments, according to KXAN news.

Previous investigations had revealed workers were exposed at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the Parks and Recreations Department, the Fire Department and Water Utility.

As a result of the reporting, the Austin Building Services Department undertook a comprehensive review of the city’s asbestos policies. The results revealed that the city’s policy was lacking in many respects. According to its own investigation, there has been inadequate oversight of asbestos, an overall lack of training among employees and unauthorized renovations.

Reforms underway

The Buildings Services Department, as part of reforms, is going to:

  • Add more asbestos investigators
  • Examine and modify its policy for managing contractors
  • Train employees on asbestos abatement procedures
  • Reviewing the city’s asbestos surveys

Asbestos still common in Austin

Having a well-trained staff and proper procedures are vital to the health of city employees and contractors. Austin, like almost all U.S. cities, has a number of buildings that contain asbestos.

When left undisturbed, asbestos does not present a danger. However, when undertaking repairs, remodeling or demolishing a building, asbestos dust can release into the air. Once inhaled, the asbestos fibers can lodge in the lungs, eventually leading to mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

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