Many people who get sick after asbestos exposure have worked in hazardous workplaces and occupations for years. That said, there are others who suffer toxic exposure while in a different type of dangerous environment: prison.
Incarcerated people abating asbestos
In troubling documents, data from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision revealed that people incarcerated in state facilities were forced to perform hazardous work. These jobs included removing asbestos and lead paint in facilities.
Making matters much worse, they received penny wages for completing these dangerous jobs. Incarcerated workers say this equates to slave labor.
In response to the allegations, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said they followed all federal regulations and guidelines regarding workplace safety.
However, asbestos abatement is incredibly complicated and requires the skills of experienced professionals. The process is complex and comprehensive, requiring the following:
- Marking off hazardous spaces
- Sealing air ducts
- Wetting down materials
- Using HEPA vacuums
- Practicing proper disposal methods
- Providing decontamination spaces
Further, while performing abatement tasks, individuals should wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
It is not hard to believe that parties paying workers a few cents an hour might cut corners when it comes to properly training and overseeing the work, not to mention equipping workers with quality protective gear.
In or out of prison, asbestos is dangerous
Unfortunately, many facilities built decades ago contain asbestos; this includes prisons and jails. We often still find it in:
- Floor tiles
- Plumbing pipes
- Wall patching compounds
When these materials are intact, the risk of toxic exposure is low. However, if deterioration or damage disturbs the asbestos, fibers can become airborne. This is when it presents a serious risk to people who ingest or breathe the asbestos in.
Because inmates are often involved in cleaning, maintaining and repairing prisons, they are at risk of exposure. Thus, they can be at a heightened risk of developing devastating illnesses like mesothelioma.
Asbestos exposure may not be something most people worry about when they or someone they love is in prison. Still, it could be a very real risk to inmates and those who work inside these institutions.