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Asbestos in NYC Buildings: Exploring the Persistent Public Health Risk

March 18, 2024
Home Firm News Asbestos in NYC Buildings: Exploring the Persistent Public Health Risk

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection surveyed your risk of being exposed to asbestos in buildings. They looked at 886 buildings from 16 different building categories. (1)

They found that close to 70% of the buildings in New York City have asbestos-containing material. Most of this asbestos is located in thermal system insulation. Roughly 50% of all asbestos-containing material is located in mechanical spaces within buildings. (2)

When Was Asbestos Banned in NYC?

Asbestos was banned in New York City, and the rest of the U.S., on March 18, 2024. The EPA announced a final rule to prohibit ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos. (3) New Yorkers may think asbestos is no longer a problem today, because of this ban. However, that is not true. Asbestos is still prevalent in buildings across New York City and the risk of exposure to it still exists.

What Is the Risk of Asbestos in NYC Buildings?

Asbestos is a toxic substance used for much of the 20th century as a fire-resistant, inexpensive component of construction materials. It can be found in insulation, tiles, cement, and textiles. It was also used to insulate and fireproof skyscrapers.

In 1988, The New York Times reported that the majority of buildings in the City that were constructed between 1920 and 1970 were built with asbestos-containing insulation, fireproofing, and soundproofing. Asbestos is still in the walls of some prominent New York buildings like the Pan Am Building and Madison Square Garden.

When the Twin Towers fell on 9/11/2001, the asbestos fibers used to fireproof the buildings were part of the massive cloud of dust and debris. That cloud may have exposed New Yorkers fleeing the city. Because asbestos-related diseases have a long latency period, we still don’t know if and how many New Yorkers will develop asbestos-related respiratory diseases because of the attacks.

If you or a loved one is suffering from exposure to asbestos, our teams of trusted lawyers are here to help. Contact us today for your free consultation.

(833) 977-3437

Who Is At Risk for Asbestos Exposure?

With the 9/11 attacks alone, the federal World Trade Center Health Program told the New York Post many thousands of people were affected. It indicated that 9,795 first responders, downtown workers, residents, and students were later diagnosed with cancer — including lung cancer.

Workers could also develop mesothelioma at some point in their lives. If they do, chances are they were exposed to asbestos.

Events like the steam pipe explosion and 9/11 raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos exposure. But they are not the only risk New Yorkers face.

Asbestos is primarily toxic when it is airborne. And even brief exposure to asbestos in the air can cause asbestos-related diseases.

Should I Find Out If Asbestos Is in My Building?

New Yorkers who begin renovation projects that open walls, particularly in old buildings, should be conscious of the risk and have any suspect materials tested. You should take steps to protect yourself and others in the vicinity.

Because of this risk, the New York Department of Labor’s Asbestos Control Bureau oversees the abatement of asbestos in buildings and apartments during reconstruction projects. The state provides certification and licensing procedures for contractors and individuals working on asbestos projects. It requires notices for large projects and pre-demolition surveys to determine if asbestos is present.

Are My Children at Risk for Asbestos Exposure?

Parents should consider the risk their children face in school buildings constructed many decades ago. As an example, Montclair High School in New Jersey closed when a stairwell collapsed, releasing asbestos into the air. A report by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), found that nearly one-third of American schools contain asbestos.

The City’s United Federation of Teachers says that an estimated 3.5 million tons of asbestos were installed in New York City schools and public buildings. The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) requires local public and private schools to inspect their buildings for asbestos-containing building material. Schools must prepare management plans to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards. (4)

If you are concerned that your child’s school might contain asbestos, request the school’s AHERA management plan. It is required to be made available within five business days of your request.

How Can I Protect Myself from Asbestos Exposure?

New Yorkers should take a moment to consider the risk of asbestos they might be facing in their daily lives. The risk is greater during construction projects or major building incidents, but it’s always there.

Specialty masks and clothing are available if you are doing remodeling. Better yet, hire professionals who know how to prepare for and protect themselves from the dangers of asbestos.

What Happens If You’ve Been Exposed to Asbestos?

People are most likely to breathe in asbestos fibers and dust if the particles are airborne. That’s why home remodeling and demolition projects can be risky. (5)

Asbestos fibers are “too small to see, and they’re easy to breathe in.” The more intense or frequent the exposure, the more likely, “They can build up in your lungs and cause health problems.” (6)

Asbestos in NYC buildings has caused pain and suffering to many who’ve come in contact with the fibers. If you or a loved one was exposed, contact us today.

(833) 977-3437

If you know or suspect you have been exposed to asbestos, consult with your doctor. Typically, the diseases asbestos causes may take decades to develop. (7)

If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, check with your doctor. Let your doctor know if you suspect you were exposed to asbestos. (8)

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness.
  • A persistent cough that just gets worse.
  • Blood in the fluid you cough up from your lungs.
  • Pain or tightening in your chest.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Swelling of your neck or face.
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.
  • Fatigue or anemia.

Your doctor may do a thorough checkup, including an x-ray and lung function test. A “chest x-ray is currently the most common tool used to detect asbestos-related diseases.” Other diagnostic tests may include a lung biopsy and a bronchoscopy. (9)

The attorneys at Weitz & Luxenberg can help you. We can help you file a lawsuit against the companies and organizations that caused your exposure to asbestos in NYC buildings and apartments to happen.

We have been litigating asbestos cases for almost four decades. In fact, we started our firm specifically to help people who had developed asbestos-related illnesses — such as mesothelioma.

W&L attorneys have made it our mission to go after the biggest violators out there. With every case, we get bigger, better, and stronger. We have secured billions of dollars on behalf of our clients who were exposed to asbestos. *

Learn how we can help you, too. Call us at (833) 977-3437 or fill out the form on this page. We are ready and available to help you get justice.

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