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Contractors face fines for asbestos exposure

Libraries are a central part of many communities in South Carolina. Whether offering free job training, internet access or simply books to check out, libraries provide valuable services in relatively safe settings. However, one out-of-state library ended up being less safe than some visitors might have realized, and contractors are now on the hook for possible asbestos exposure.

The Hale Library at Kansas State University was plagued by a serious fire in 2018. Smoke and water caused extensive damage to the library's collection of more than 1.5 million books. The fire also damaged the library building itself. The university brought in two different contractors to perform essential repairs and rehabilitation to the building. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, both contractors failed to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for working in buildings with asbestos. 

Mesothelioma can come decades after asbestos exposure

Preventing fires is important for public safety, but some efforts at doing so are better than others. For example, asbestos was once widely used in homes and other buildings as a form of fire retardant. While asbestos might be effective at resisting and preventing fires, it is also extremely dangerous to human health. The toxic substance causes mesothelioma, a fatal cancer that affects victims' lungs and various other organs.

Asbestos is no longer used in new construction, but it can still be found in many older buildings and homes. Also, many companies and manufacturers still use asbestos in other types of products. Because of these and other factors, most people in South Carolina will be exposed to asbestos at some point. It is important to understand that even minimal exposure can lead to serious health outcomes.

Apartment residents worried about asbestos exposure

Removing asbestos from older buildings is extremely dangerous. If not done properly, asbestos fibers can become airborne. This type of asbestos exposure is linked to devastating health outcomes, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. However, before being diagnosed, some people in South Carolina might not even know that they were ever exposed to the deadly substance.

A group of residents at an apartment in another state say they were never warned of possible exposure to asbestos. The asbestos was located in the apartment's laundry room, which is located in the basement of the building. Residents say they were never notified that work would be going on before the removal process started.

Merchant Marines and mesothelioma

Many Navy veterans have developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure on Navy ships. But another group of employees who have widely been exposed to asbestos on ships is Merchant Marines.

These men and women offer valuable service transporting cargo and passengers in times of peace, and supporting the United States Navy in times of war.

Whole community still fears asbestos exposure

Working in certain industries can put people at a higher than average risk for being exposed to asbestos. However, being employed in construction or manufacturing is far from the only way to fall victim to asbestos exposure. In some situations, entire neighborhoods and communities might be exposed through no fault of their own.

The residents of a community in a state outside of South Carolina say they are still scared about the lingering effects of asbestos in their neighborhoods. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos was discovered in the neighborhood back in 2011. The asbestos came from a nearby vermiculite processing plant, which operated between the years of 1953 and 1989. One long-time resident said that there were plenty of unexplainable deaths throughout the decades.

EPA seeks to limit asbestos exposure with new rule

Despite the fact that the dangerous health effects of asbestos are well understood, it is still imported into the United States. This imported substance is used in a wide range of products that continue to put people in South Carolina at significant risk for asbestos exposure. A new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency could help reduce the risk of exposure to new uses of asbestos.

While many people believe that the United States has a total ban on asbestos, it actually only has a partial ban. That partial ban has allowed the ongoing importation and manufacturing of asbestos, which is frequently used during industrial processes and in specialized products. The EPA proposed its Significant New Use Rule -- SNUR -- in 2018, which it hoped would close up loopholes that allow ongoing asbestos use. Feedback from safety advocates led the EPA to revise SNUR.

Property owners sentenced for asbestos exposure

Removing asbestos can be a dangerous undertaking and may put workers and nearby people at risk for exposure. In order to minimize asbestos exposure and the related health risks, removal of the toxic substance is heavily regulated. Some people in South Carolina and elsewhere view this regulation as more of an annoying roadblock than an important safety measure, and end up making decisions that land them in trouble with the law.

In 2015, a pair of brothers purchased a property that they knew contained asbestos. Reportedly 35 and 39 years of age, they were told by their realtor that it would be costly to have the asbestos properly removed. Another potential buyer had apparently backed out of the purchase when he received a $117,000 bid to safely remove the asbestos in the right manner. The brothers moved ahead with the purchase.

What are the two types of asbestos?

Asbestos is a chemically harmless substance, but when it is inhaled or ingested, it can wreak havoc on the body.

Mesothelioma is a serious type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. It typically affects the outer lining of the lungs, but can affect other areas of the body, as well. For many people diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos exposure occurred several decades ago in a workplace setting.

Family raises awareness over loved one's mesothelioma death

Exposure to asbestos is not always obvious at the time. Many people live years or even decades after exposure before developing sometimes subtle but troubling symptoms. When those symptoms end up pointing to mesothelioma, victims in South Carolina can be understandably angry and confused, and it is often the families who are left behind to address the injustices that lead to these types of diagnoses.

Alongside her daughter, one woman is working to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos after losing her husband to mesothelioma. Before he was diagnosed, her husband seemed to be gaining a large amount of weight in his stomach. The sudden growth in his abdomen coupled with a persistent cough and shortness of breath landed him in the doctor's office, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. When he worsened despite treatment he was sent to the Mayo clinic and told he had mesothelioma. He was 40 years old at the time and died only a short while later.

Improved labeling could prevent some asbestos exposure

Following the discovery of asbestos in some of the cosmetic products sold by the retailer Claire's, some members of the U.S. Congress are pushing for improved warning labels on potentially dangerous products. Asbestos exposure is especially serious as it can lead to fatal illnesses decades in the future. Better labeling practices could give South Carolina consumers the power and confidence to choose products that are free from asbestos.

Representative Debbie Dingell recently introduced legislation that would require companies to place warning labels on products that could possibly contain asbestos. Representative Jan Schakowsky co-sponsored the bill. The CEO and president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization Linda Reinstein also spoke out in support of the bill, saying that it would help parents protect their children from dangerous products.

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