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Proposed Factory Demolition Underscores Ongoing Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Risk of Asbestos Exposure

The owner of a former West Virginia pottery factory is at odds with state environmental regulators over the demolition of crumbling buildings that contain toxic asbestos.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has gone to court to bar contractor Nick Masciarelli from demolishing the former Taylor Smith & Taylor pottery factory, contending that he has refused to remove the asbestos properly, according to a report in The Charleston Gazette.

Demolition and remodeling activities are a primary source of exposure to asbestos today. If demolition workers, asbestos removal workers and construction workers are not equipped with proper safety gear or don’t employ techniques to suppress and contain asbestos fibers, the toxic fibers or fine dust can disperse in the air and be inhaled and trapped in a worker’s lung. Over time, the fibers can cause scarring and inflammation, affecting breathing and causing serious respiratory disease including mesothelioma, an incurable cancer that affects the lining of the lung or abdomen. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form.

Masciarelli, who purchased the property about 18 months ago, with plans to demolish the buildings, said he can’t remove the asbestos the way that state environmental regulators want because the crumbling factory buildings are dangerously unstable and unsafe for his workers to enter. A hearing is scheduled on Aug. 24.

A manufacturer of dinnerware, Taylor Smith & Taylor began in Chester, W. Virginia in 1899. TS&T was bought out in the early 1970s and closed in 1981.

While use of asbestos is limited today in the United States, new cases of mesothelioma can occur through exposure to asbestos during remediation and demolition of buildings containing asbestos if controls are insufficient to protect workers and the surrounding community. An estimated 1.3 million construction and general industry workers potentially are being exposed to asbestos today, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

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Last Modified: November 20, 2018

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