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What is an asbestos watch area?

The residents of Davidson, North Carolina, are all too familiar with asbestos and its health risks. The community was home to the former Carolina Asbestos Corporation factory, which used asbestos to make fabric, tiles and shingles between the 1930s and the 1960s.

Now the Carolina Asbestos Corporation is gone and the property is known as the Davidson Depot. However, the residents are still not free from the asbestos contamination that the business brought to the town. In 2017, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invested $3 million in cleanup efforts, which occurred in the community. However, this was not enough.

Asbestos lingers in the community

Historically, asbestos was used to fill yards and driveways. Recent cleanup efforts included removing over 6,000 tons of contaminated soil, but more could exist deeper in the soil, under houses or foundations. Complete removal of the contamination would have required removing all the homes in the area.

Because some risk of asbestos exposure remains, North Carolina environmental officials are aiming to designate part of the town as an “asbestos watch area.” This label is intended to serve as a permanent warning regarding all properties in the area. It would draw attention to the risks associated with any work that could disturb the soil, prompting workers and residents to take the appropriate precautions to avoid asbestos exposure.

What this designation means for residents

Homeowners or workers who may dig or otherwise disturb the soil would need to consult with state or local officials before beginning work on any project. Officials will then help determine the best way to manage potential risks.

The asbestos watch area designation will also appear on land records. This is good news for potential buyers because they will fully understand any possible risks. However, it could make it difficult for someone to sell a home.

An asbestos watch area designation is likely to be inconvenient for those who live and do business in Davidson. However, it may help limit the exposure people have to this dangerous substance.

Any amount of asbestos exposure can be dangerous

When someone or something disturbs asbestos fibers, the fibers can become airborne. Once in the air, someone can easily inhale them, which allows the fibers to get stuck in the lungs. Any amount of asbestos exposure could cause someone to develop a life-threatening illness, like lung cancer, asbestosis or mesothelioma.

Symptoms of these aggressive illnesses may not appear until decades after the exposure, which can be misleading. If you have been exposed to asbestos, it may be best to consult your doctor. When conducted regularly, certain screenings can help monitor your health and help identify an illness as soon as possible, if one develops.

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