Weitz & Luxenberg Responds to Incidence of Illegal Asbestos Abatement
September 18, 2007, New York, NY—“What makes the case of the Callahan asbestos removal investigation particularly disheartening was Callahan's illegal exploitation of the homeless by needlessly exposing them to asbestos,” said Patti L. Burshtyn, an attorney in the Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C. Asbestos Litigation department.
John Edward Callahan was found to have hired untrained homeless individuals to perform asbestos abatement work, placing them and the public at large at risk for exposure to asbestos, a known carcinogen. The Virginia man was sentenced last month to 21 months in prison for violating federal environmental laws.
In March 2004, Callahan, a two-time convicted felon, was contracted to remove asbestos from a building in Roanoke, Va. He then commissioned indigent workers to perform the abatement, paying them an hourly wage of just $10. Callahan instructed those in his charge to cut the asbestos without wetting it, a clear violation of federal regulations pertaining to the proper removal of asbestos.
Callahan also broke federal laws related to asbestos disposal, improperly labeling bags of the material. These bags were taken to a landfill site that had a section designated for asbestos waste, but, due to the mislabeling, were dumped in the general trash.
Ms. Burshtyn explained that given the long latency period for developing asbestos-related disease after exposure to the mineral, these workers may develop mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer 30 or 40 years in the future.
“In addition to the myriad economic and health issues the homeless face every day,” said Ms. Burshtyn, “these workers were unwittingly exposed to a toxic substance and may potentially contract a fatal lung disease as a result.”
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