University Pauses Construction Over Asbestos

by Sokolove Law

A recent incident at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York underscores the dangers of asbestos and the need for a ban on the carcinogenic mineral.

As reported in Your News Now (YNN), the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the New York Department of Labor are investigating whether construction workers were exposed to asbestos after several tests for the material at various URMC construction sites came up positive.

YNN reports that URMC shut down all construction involving interior drywall indefinitely following the test results.

The asbestos was discovered in drywall, spackle, cement, and “fire stop” materials in February and March during a renovation project at URMC’s former Blood and Bone Marrow Wing. According to asbestos survey data, the material included chrysotile (white) and anthophyllite asbestos. Concentrations of the material ranged from as little as two percent up to 12 percent. Any amount in excess of one percent is deemed a hazard under state guidelines and must be removed, according to YNN.

Unfortunately for the workers, URMC says that the asbestos was disturbed and may have become airborne during the renovation. While air tests performed two days after a second potential exposure came back negative for airborne asbestos, construction workers say the tests took place too late to know if there was a threat.

Any exposure to airborne asbestos, no matter how small, can increase the risk of developing an asbestos disease such as asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma. Now workers are fearful that they are at risk and are calling on the university to take action. “We just don’t want to see this get pushed under the rug,” one worker told YNN. “It’s affected a lot of local construction workers.”

The university claims that it relied heavily on “historical records and assumptions” to locate asbestos-containing materials in buildings undergoing construction or demolition. But the drywall was not included on these rosters, in part because using asbestos in construction materials is still legal and unregulated in New York State.

“Moving forward, we will be doing more robust material sampling and surveying, to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” Jose Fernandez, the University’s Director of Campus Planning, Design & Construction, told YNN.

If you or a loved one developed an asbestos disease such as mesothelioma as a result of negligent exposure on a job site, you may be eligible for an asbestos settlement. Contact Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation and to see if an asbestos lawyer can help you.

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