- Asbestos Assessments for Commercial Buildings Now Routine
- June 17, 2015
- Law Firm: Waters Kraus LLP - Dallas Office
- Mesothelioma is a health problem for thousands of Americans today because it was so frequently used decades ago as an inexpensive construction material in commercial buildings, as well as other places. Since most of those commercial buildings are still standing, asbestos remains a serious environmental concern.
Presence of Asbestos Reduces Value of Commercial Buildings
If a building was constructed before 1971, the odds are that it contained asbestos. But this doesn’t mean that structures erected after 1971 are safe. Buildings from as late as 1985 have also be found to contain asbestos.
In commercial buildings, asbestos was frequently used in flooring, wall board, ceilings and insulation. The federal governments banned some of these uses for asbestos in the 1970s.
Asbestos in commercial buildings creates a health hazard when it is disturbed or removed. When tiny asbestos particles are released into the air, they can be inhaled by people nearby. Once in the lungs, asbestos over time can cause mesothelioma, a fatal cancer that takes decades to develop.
To remediate, or remove, asbestos, building owners must comply with federal, state and local regulations, like those implemented by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. Workers wet down the products to contain the dust and wear hazmat suits and respirators to protect themselves. Because it’s expensive, most commercial building owners choose just to seal off the asbestos unless they plan to demolish or renovate the structure.
Asbestos is reportedly a concern for commercial building owners primarily because it devalues the structure when present, perhaps by as much as 50 percent. This is a huge concern for lenders. As a result, commercial real-estate transactions frequently involve a phase one environmental assessment to uncover potential environmental issues with the building, including the presence of asbestos.
Sadly, the focus on asbestos continues to be more about money than with the safety of commercial building tenants and their guests.