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What steps must property managers take regarding asbestos?

Building owners and managers choose to manage risks in a number of ways. The recent actions by one Texas property manager appear to serve as an example of how and why some may choose to put others at risk.

According to the Wichita Falls Times Record News, the manager of the city's Big Blue office building filed a breach of contract suit against one of its former tenants. However, the tenant claimed there was more to the story. It said the manager filed the lawsuit because the tenant had threatened to let the building's other tenants know that the manager had likely exposed them to asbestos.

The chrysotile fiber that broke the camel's back

As the tenant's story goes, the building manager had failed to live up to its contract in several ways. But the tenant had remained in the building until it received the warning of a former contractor. The contractor informed the tenant that the manager might be working with materials that contained asbestos and that it might not be disposing those materials properly. The tenant arranged for the testing of some discarded building materials, and the tests revealed unsafe levels of asbestos.

The tenant claimed that the discovery of carcinogenic chrysotile fibers had been the last straw. As a result, the tenant gave notice that it was leaving the building because of "health and safety concerns."

Other tenants may have also been exposed

Notably, the Times Record reports that the materials had been tossed into a dumpster, despite EPA regulations that mandate strict removal protocols. The EPA and OSHA both provide strict rules for the testing, removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials. These rules aim to prevent workers and residents from suffering asbestos exposure. However, building owners and managers sometimes ignore them in favor of cutting costs.

As the Times Record reports, another of the building's tenants had seen firefighters respond to construction that had kicked out so much dust that it looked like clouds of smoke from the street. This second tenant claimed to have seen workers tossing materials into large bins meant for the city landfill. By failing to take the required steps for dealing with asbestos, the manager may have exposed the public at large, as well as the tenants, which included a private school for children ages 8 to 14.

Asbestos exposure can lead to cancer

The problem, of course, is that asbestos is a known carcinogen. Even short bursts of exposure, such as you might experience during the renovation of your building, could prove deadly. No amount of exposure is entirely safe. Asbestos fibers that get into your body can linger for decades and may eventually lead to diseases like mesothelioma.

That's why the EPA and OSHA regulate:

  • The use of asbestos in building materials
  • Observation and treatment plans for schools that contain asbestos
  • Safety protocols for workers who deal with asbestos
  • The demolition and renovation of public buildings that contain asbestos
  • The cleanup and disposal of asbestos
  • The training for workers who deal with asbestos

When building owners and managers ignore these regulations and hire workers who aren't equipped to meet them, they put lives at risk. They may not like spending the extra money to handle things the right way, but that's their duty under the law. If they fail to uphold their duty and cause you or a loved one to fall ill, you have a right to hold them accountable.

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