In Detroit, Contractor Error Exposes Neighbors to Asbestos

Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

House Demolished without Permission, Asbestos Not Removed

A demolition error has exposed some Detroit residents to asbestos, a hazardous substance that is toxic to inhale. Asbestos is a known cancer-causing agent, or carcinogen. Last September, a house was demolished in Detroit without permission. The asbestos from the house was not removed when the house was torn down, presenting a health risk to neighbors.

The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits involving occupational and environmental hazards, including asbestos mesothelioma cases. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing an asbestos exposure lawsuit.

Detroit’s WXYZ reported in September that the house in question needed to be torn down; it had burned down in 2013, claiming the lives of two small children. “It was a constant reminder of the tragedy that happened over there. It’s a blessing it’s gone,” a neighbor said to 7 Action News.

However, the house was demolished at the wrong time. The asbestos was not removed before the house was torn down, exposing nearby residents to harmful asbestos fibers. Another house had been scheduled for demolition, and contractors tore down the wrong one.

The contractor reported himself upon realizing the error to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, who subsequently cited the company.

According to WXYZ, the demolition occurred on September 6, 2016 at a proposed cost of $23,894.
The Detroit Land Bank Authority released a statement on the issue, stating:

“The home in question was demolished without permission from the Detroit Land Bank Authority or the Detroit Building Authority. The contractor immediately self-reported the error to the MDEQ. The DLBA and the DBA did not cause the alleged violations and therefore, cannot explain their cause. As a licensed demolition contractor, it was the DBA and the DLBA’s expectation that the contractor would have followed the legal requirements and the DBA’s Scope of Work for these projects had the contractor had the permission to demolish. The DBA’s Scope of Work clearly sets for the requirements for demolition projects. If those requirements are not followed, contractors are subject to disciplinary action. The contractor in this case has been referred to the city of Detroit for disciplinary review.”

Asbestos Health Risks and Mesothelioma

In the past, asbestos was widely used in the construction industry for insulation. In recent decades, however, experts found that the naturally-occurring material is harmful when inhaled. The presence of asbestos itself may not be dangerous, but if it is disturbed, such as during a demolition, it will release hazardous asbestos fibers.

Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause lung disease and mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer. Cancer from asbestos exposure has a long latency period, meaning it takes many years from the time of exposure to when the cancer develops.

Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure 70 to 80 percent of the time, according to the American Lung Association.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most cases of occupational exposure occur through building maintenance and remediation of buildings containing asbestos. In the past, workers were exposed to asbestos in the mining and milling, manufacturing, shipbuilding and repair and construction industries. Unfortunately, the prognosis for mesothelioma patients is typically poor. The median survival is roughly one year for patients with malignant mesothelioma, according to the CDC.

Symptoms of mesothelioma include difficulty breathing, fluid buildup in the lungs, nausea or vomiting, weight loss and anemia (particularly in women).

According to a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Week report, 45,221 people died of mesothelioma between 1999 and 2015. In 1999, mesothelioma deaths totaled 2,479. This figure rose to 2,597 in 2015.
The CDC reports notes that deaths from mesothelioma are still significant, stating, “Despite regulatory actions and decline in asbestos use, the annual number of malignant mesothelioma deaths remains substantial.”

“Contrary to past projections, the number of malignant mesothelioma deaths has been increasing. The continuing occurrence of mesothelioma deaths, particularly among younger populations, underscores the need for maintaining efforts to prevent exposure and for ongoing surveillance to monitor temporal trends.”

Many asbestos exposure lawsuits have been filed on behalf of workers who developed cancer after being exposed to the carcinogen. These individuals often seek damages for physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering. They also sue for medical expenses.

Legal Help for Asbestos Mesothelioma Victims

If you or someone you know developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos, you may have valuable legal rights. Parker Waichman personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).