Anytime renovation work is done in an older building, one built prior to the 1980s, there is a high probability that managing the removal of asbestos will be part of that project. When the specific city, state and federal guidelines for asbestos abatement are followed, the project can go smoothly. However, in a renovation project in one New York apartment building, a couple living below an apartment being renovated have had their lives disrupted for more than two years due to asbestos dust overrunning their apartment.
According to a Feb. 25 article in the New York Post, a couple was forced out of their Upper East Side New York apartment two years ago when their upstairs neighbor began renovations that caused asbestos dust to rain down on their living space. The couple claims asbestos dust and lead dust made remaining in their apartment a health hazard for them.
The two grabbed a few belongings and fled to their respective parent’s houses where they have been since Dec. 2014. The married couple have continued to live apart after six tests of the dust particles were shown to contain asbestos and lead, leaving their apartment “uninhabitable.” When asbestos fibers become airborne they can be inhaled, leading to scarred and damaged lungs. Over time, the person can develop mesothelioma, asbestosis or other asbestos-related diseases.
The couple has filed a lawsuit against their upstairs neighbor, the apartment’s co-op board, the architect and the construction company involved in the renovation. They claim that during the project when walls and floors were ripped out asbestos-wrapped pipes and lead paint from the floors were exposed. They also claim the workers failed to cover the work area properly resulting in the dust entering their apartment through vents and cracks in the ceiling. The couple is asking for a “thorough environmental cleanup of their home” and unspecified damages for forcing them out of their home.
Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer of the lining of the lungs, chest or abdomen that is highly aggressive and is resistant to many cancer treatments. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declared that there is no safe level of exposure to the carcinogen.
The New York Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for the asbestos regulations for the city. According to its website:
“Every owner of a building where asbestos abatement activity occurs is responsible for the performance of the asbestos abatement activities by his/her agent, contractor, employee, or other representative. Each building owner is responsible for determining the amount of asbestos-containing material that may be disturbed during the course of work.”
“It’s been a strain,” said the displaced apartment owner. “We are living in overnight bags in two separate places.”
It can take decades for mesothelioma to develop, leaving those exposed to asbestos at a life-long risk of developing the cancer. Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with the deadly cancer each year.