Awareness of the prevalence and harm of asbestos has been fading in recent years. That has led many contractors to become lax about asbestos safety. In Detroit, which has seen the largest blight removal project in the country, this is a dangerous oversight.
Asbestos was used widely in insulation and other materials in residential homes, particularly homes constructed in the mid-20th century. Asbestos, when inhaled, causes mesothelioma and lung cancer. Many properties in Detroit and throughout Michigan contain asbestos in roofing, tile and insulation.
Report reveals asbestos violations
Reporting by the Detroit Free Press about the failure of contractors to guard workers against the dangers of asbestos prompted some Michigan lawmakers to take action. Several bills have been introduced, which would:
- Require background checks on asbestos abatement contractors
- Require bidders to disclose asbestos and other environmental violations within the last five years
- Allow public agencies to avoid paying contractors with more than five violations within one year, unless they have remedied the violations
Asbestos abatement must be done right
Unfortunately, we have seen more instances of asbestos violations in recent years. In New York City, for example, asbestos investigators have been charged with fraud for claiming buildings were asbestos-free, despite not checking the properties. In Detroit, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality found over 100 violations in 2014 alone – and it inspects only up to 10 percent of properties. This means asbestos exposure could be a significant problem as workers continue to demolish abandoned properties.
Contractors have a legal obligation to workers to protect them from asbestos exposure. There are also filing requirements whenever demolishing or remodeling a property containing asbestos. Failure to do so can lead to significant harm.