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To contain asbestos dangers, NYC recycles old subway cars as underwater reefs

Asbestos materials inside the old cars are deemed safe underwater, said a NYC Transit spokesperson.

September 17, 2009 - New York City’s Brightline stainless-steel subway cars, which during the 1960s carried passengers from Lower Manhattan to North Brooklyn, made their final run last month - this time to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean about 15 miles off Georgia's coast.

The high cost of getting rid of asbestos in the subway cars inspired the creative asbestos removal strategy, said Mike Zacchea, assistant chief operations officer for New York City Transit.

It costs about $8,000 to transport and dump each car, while asbestos removal could run between $12,000 to $65,000, said the NYC Transit executive. “We like to think of it as the end of their landlocked life and the beginning of their underwater life.”

Asbestos is safe under the sea

Considered to be safe underwater, asbestos materials are known to be a dangerous health risk when asbestos fibers become airborne. Inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers can lead to lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Transit officials worked closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to make sure the cars posed no environmental threat. Pollutants such as oil are removed beforehand, Zacchea told the Associated Press.

Artificial reefs are needed in Georgia’s waters because the ocean bottom is mostly composed of loose sand and silt, which makes it difficult for natural reefs to form.

Georgia pays $2,600 per car, but the state benefits economically by boosting recreational activities and luring fishing tournaments to the state because of the sea life that inhabits the artificial reefs.

It’s all part of a cooperative effort between New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority and Georgia's Department of Natural Resources.

Asbestos-related mesothelioma

Despite the fatal health consequences associated with airborne asbestos fibers, asbestos is still imported and used in the United States for its insulation properties, especially in the construction and automobiles industries.

The United States imported and used an estimated 1,820 tons of asbestos in 2007, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Health department sources estimate that in the next decade more than 35,000 people nationwide will be diagnosed with the deadliest form of asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma.

Time to seek justice

NYC personal injury law firm Weitz & Luxenberg has protected the rights of workers injured by asbestos since 1986.

And in that time the firm's mesothelioma lawyers have won several billion dollars in verdicts and settlements for clients injured by job-related asbestos exposure.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and seek a free case review, please notify us through the communication form on this page.

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