Whether You Sit In or Stand Up, Speak Out to Prevent Asbestos Abatement Woes

Home Insulation

This week I’m blogging from home in my PJ’s because I’m under the weather. I’m only half-joking when I say last week’s post might have something to do with it.

Last week I explained how building owners like landlords must notify tenants if asbestos is present. I also mentioned safety precautions that landlords must take to avoid asbestos exposure.

Things like hiring qualified inspectors and contractors to locate asbestos hazards and do any abatement work. I also talked about government standards to make sure asbestos is handled properly.

Unfortunately, people don’t always follow the law. Sure, I can usually provide a list of legal options if someone else’s wrongdoing exposes you to asbestos and you get sick. But it can take decades to find out if you’ve been injured.

There aren’t as many legal options available to help you avoid the exposure in the first place. This is especially true if you’re on someone else’s property.

And that makes me sick.

But a group of parents in Brooklyn has lifted my spirits. As I write, they’re taking a stand and reminding us about the most effective legal right we have in this country: the right to speak up.

Keep a Watchful Eye

Parents in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn are outraged because the city wants to start an asbestos removal project at a local elementary school this week. Officials have tried to assure the parents that the work will be done safely. But the parents realize that things can go wrong.

Asbestos abatement is dangerous work. Sometimes mistakes are made. And sometimes unethical asbestos professionals simply put profits before safety. I’m sure the Cobble Hill parents remember recent examples like Saverio F. Todaro and the Salvagnos:

  • Todaro was a licensed safety inspector in New York City. He falsified reports showing that hundreds of sites were free of asbestos dangers. But he never actually performed safety tests at these sites. A federal court sentenced Todaro to over five years in jail.

  • Raul and Alexander Salvagnos were father and son owners of an asbestos abatement company. They cut corners, ignored asbestos removal and disposal requirements, and falsified lab results. They tricked clients into believing that buildings, including schools, were free from asbestos. A federal court sentenced them to a combined total of nearly 45 years in prison. They were also ordered to pay millions in fines and victim restitution.

Whether its negligence or criminal conduct, it takes decades to uncover the harm done by asbestos exposure. By then, it’s too late. The harm is done.

That’s why the Cobble Hill parents are acting now. They’ve organized a public protest to urge city officials to postpone abatement until the kids are out of school for the summer. They’ve also brought attention to the city’s failure to post prominent signs about the abatement work and to provide the required seven days notice about the project.

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Keep your eyes open for asbestos dangers in your home, workplace and communities. If you see or hear about asbestos abatement work in your community, ask questions.

This is really important if you see an old building being renovated. Find out who’s doing the work. Contact local health and environmental agencies, if necessary, to make sure properly licensed professionals are doing the work correctly. Let them know you’re watching and hope they are, too.

And if the worst happens and you’re injured by asbestos exposure, consider exercising your legal options against those responsible. Standing up for your rights may help stop a wrongdoer from injuring someone else.

Meanwhile, visit Asbestos.com for more information about asbestos abatement.


Karen Marshall has more than 17 years of legal experience and is an attorney with The Peterson Firm. She has been contributing to The Mesothelioma Center since 2011 and writes about asbestos-related legal issues and blogs for Asbestos.com.

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