In recent posts, we have discussed tenants of rental properties who have been affected by asbestos in their buildings. Sadly, these cases continue to come up because too many property owners continue to fall short when it comes to their responsibility to deal with asbestos safely.
Now that spring is here, home owners all across North Carolina may be doing some spring cleaning and planning home repair or construction projects. However, before people start sweeping, repairing, washing, tearing down or building up their property, they may want to remember that there can be a very real risk of asbestos exposure during these projects.
When people think about premises liability, they often think that it simply means clearing a slippery sidewalk, fixing a broken step or putting up a fence around a swimming pool. These can all pose a threat to a person's safety and they should be addressed by a property owner in order to make it safe for others. However, not all unsafe conditions are this obvious. In fact, there can be hazards lurking inside a building that tenants and visitors are exposed to every single day without even realizing it.
The dangers of asbestos have been known for several years. We know that being exposed to asbestos can cause devastating and permanent damage to a person's health, as it is linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma. But residents of an apartment complex are also learning that exposure to asbestos can also result in other upsetting damages.
People who have heard of asbestos generally associate the toxic fiber with industrial machines, construction jobs and military vessels. It is true that these are just a few of the environments in which asbestos was commonly used and can still be found today. However, people may be surprised to learn that asbestos still lurks in places that many of us visit on a regular basis.
Asbestos exposure can be extremely dangerous. As many of our readers know, today, many people live with mesothelioma that was caused by asbestos exposure decades ago. Unlike many other conditions, mesothelioma takes a long period of time -- sometimes as long as 40 years -- to become noticeable in a patient. Because no amount of asbestos is safe to be around, it is imperative that all companies in North Carolina and elsewhere ensure that their workers, customers and others are not at risk of exposure.
It should be no surprise to property owners that asbestos is commonly found in several different areas of many different buildings. For decades, the toxic fiber was used as an inexpensive way to insulate and fire-proof materials used in office buildings and homes in North Carolina and across the country. While asbestos may not present an immediate health hazard to people when it is intact, it can be very damaging if it is disturbed and asbestos dust is released into the air.
Decades ago, many buildings in and around North Carolina were constructed using products that contained asbestos. The use of these materials was quite common because asbestos was relatively cheap and the properties of the material provided effective sound absorption and resistance to fire. Whether asbestos was used in a building's insulation, floor tiles or cement, it was a very popular practice to construct buildings using the fiber.
We have discussed how workers in certain occupations can be much more affected by exposure to asbestos than others. For many years, people in North Carolina and all across the world were working in jobs where they breathed in or came into contact with asbestos without proper protection or warnings by employers.
When we read about the victims of asbestos exposure, we may notice that many of them are older, retired and perhaps enjoying time with their grandchildren or even great grandchildren. This is because people who developed asbestos-related illnesses often did so after working at companies for many years where asbestos was present, and it can take decades for people to be diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. By the time a person learns that he or she has developed a terminal illness, it may be 50 years after they were exposed.