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Lack of asbestos permits puts Pittsburgh community at risk for exposure

Prior to regulations established in the 1970s and 1980s, asbestos was commonly used in building materials such as roofing, tiles, insulation and more. Because of this, many homes built before the new laws contain the deadly fiber, undisturbed above their heads and below their feet.

When demolition of a property is commissioned, a major concern is securing the proper permits and safety for all those near the site. In some cases, contractors may forget or move forward without asbestos clearances, possibly releasing the fibers into the air. Asbestos removal is time consuming and expensive, causing companies to try to complete the project without making sure the job is done right.

Instead of keeping safety a top concern, companies attempt to save money and cut corners by ignoring the prospect of asbestos on the property. A project in Clairton was shut down at the end of August for this reason.

The former auto parts building on St. Clair Avenue in Clairton was one of almost 20 demolition sites shut down by the Allegheny County Health Department. Without the asbestos abatement permits, the work cannot continue. Now the partially destructed sites sit with building materials exposed. Even worse, the crew behind the demolitions did not have a dumpsite for the materials, adding another hazard to both the community and workers.

Once disturbed, asbestos can spread through the air and cause life-threatening damage to all those who inhale the fibers. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure meaning any amount at any time may cause future health problems.

Asbestos exposure is linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lining of the lungs. Taking decades to develop, those affected don’t realize the danger in their chest until it has progressed too far and there is no known cure.

Both occupational and environmental exposure puts people at risk. Asbestos cases involve those exposed while working at a steel mill, power house, chemical plant or other industrial worksite as well as their spouses and children who can become sick.

Asbestos removal is costly, but for a reason. Care and precaution must be taken to ensure it is removed from the site with minimal disturbance so as to keep those nearby safe. The workers must act diligently to keep the fibers from entering their suits and traveling home. Asbestos is a major threat and should be treated as such.

  • Patrick Cloonan, “County shuts down Clairton demolition work,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Aug. 29, 2015). [Link]