A number of news stories have been reported in Florida recently about asbestos. Earlier this month, for example, he Cass Street Bridge in Tampa was reopened after it was closed for months for asbestos removal. Employees working on a highway construction site close to Fort Myers found very large quantities of asbestos at the site as well as concrete that was laced with asbestos. Ocala City Hall closed late last year after mold and asbestos was found in the building.
The asbestos cases resulted in one investigation, against a construction company. Posen Construction, working on the Summerlin overpass, was accused of using asbestos illegally after large amounts of the substance were found at the site. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection stopped the company from proceeding on the project while an investigation took place. The filler used in the project is allegedly made with a high amount of asbestos, and the county is blaming the construction company for the asbestos. If an illegal amount of asbestos is found at the site, it will have to be removed, although it is not yet clear who would be responsible for the costs.
The news highlights the prevalence of asbestos in our cities and towns. The substance was once used quite commonly because it was a fire retardant and was considered a safe building material. However, research showed that asbestos exposure leads to a form of cancer known as Mesothelioma as well as to other personal injuries and ailments. Today, many people who develop Mesothelioma or other serous ailments as a result of asbestos exposure seek help from the courts to get the financial resources they need for medical care. Companies are often eager to blame others – manufacturers or subcontractors – when asbestos contamination is found. This can make it hard for victims to recover the compensation they are entitled to by law.
Another problem, according to experts, is a lax attitude about asbestos on the part of lawmakers. In 1989, the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule was created to eventually ban asbestos. However, the legislation was overturned. While the US has strict rules about the use of asbestos, it does not have a ban, like many countries do. This makes it legal to use asbestos in some applications and some projects (including road construction). Some experts believe that since asbestos has been proven so unsafe, a full ban is more practical.
If asbestos were banned outright, for example, much of the controversy in the Summerlin overpass project would not have taken place. The contractors would not be permitted to place any asbestos anywhere at the site and there would be no question over legal limits or cleanup. Experts also note that while there are strict guidelines for asbestos use in place, allowing even some asbestos to be used sends the wrong message. As well, even small amounts of exposure can lead to health problems, further suggesting a complete ban might be ideal.