• City Demolitions Show Lack of Asbestos Mitigation
  • March 16, 2018
  • A recent audit in Austin, Texas has found an increasing number of housing demolitions with a lack of safety oversight. As such, the Austin City Council has approved resolutions aimed at addressing the issue brought by a city council member who has more demolitions occurring in her district than all of the other districts. Between 2008 and 2016, there were 1,177 demolition permits approved.

    One resolution in particular asks the city’s staff to calculate fee increases if tests are needed to check for asbestos and lead in residences scheduled for demolition. There is currently no required mitigation for asbestos, lead, or other toxic chemicals required under city code for residential demolitions.

    According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “mitigation is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters.” While FEMA focuses on natural disasters, the act of mitigation can apply to asbestos in building demolition as well. A neighborhood resident has said that demolitions are happening throughout the neighborhood, specifically older homes being replaced with larger and more up-to-date structures with more value than the homes originally there.

    What is Asbestos?

    Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil. Because of the strength of its fibers and resistance to heat, asbestos has been used in a wide array of building construction for isolation and as a fire retardant.

    How Can People Be Exposed to Asbestos?

    The people most at risk for developing an asbestos-related injury are those who have directly worked with the material. That being said, even minimal exposure can result in a life-altering illness.

    In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way to release particles and fibers into the air. This can occur during product usage, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling. Asbestos can be found in

    • Attic and wall insulation containing vermiculite
    • Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives
    • Roofing and siding shingles
    • Textured paint and patching compounds used on walls and ceilings
    • Hot water and steam pipes coated with asbestos insulation
    • Heat-resistant fabrics

    Health Effects from Exposure to Asbestos

    Three of the major health effects associated with asbestos exposure are:

    • Lung cancer
    • Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining of the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart.
    • Asbestosis, a serious progressive, long-term, non-cancerous disease of the lungs
    In general, asbestos-related illnesses have a latency period between 30 and 40 years meaning that people may go decades without showing symptoms.