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Northeast homes being checked for asbestos
By Karen M. Zielinski, Press & Guide Newspapers
DEARBORN - April 6, 2005 - EPA workers began knocking on doors Monday in the city's northeast end, asking residents whether they were exposed to the asbestos-laced vermiculite from the former W.R. Grace Plant on Henn Street.
Many may shut their doors wondering how their health will be affected.
Most of the residents, experts say, have nothing to worry about.
But some, said Michigan Department of Community Health toxicologist Erik Janus, should be scheduling appointments with a doctors.
Merely living in the area that EPA officials are canvassing from Chase Road in the west to Schaefer Road in the east and Ford Road in the south and Warren Avenue in the north does not necessarily mean those residents are at risk for asbestos-related diseases.
Investigators are particularly interested in locating former workers at the plant, people who lived with those workers and residents of homes where the tainted vermiculite was brought for driveway fill or gardening soil.
Those people, Janus said, are at a greater risk for asbestos-related illnesses, because they were constantly breathing in the dangerous substance.
"Exposure to asbestos leads generally four types of health affects," Janus said. "Asbestos, lung cancer, mesothelioma and other respiratory issues, like plural plaques."
From the 1940s to 1989, the Grace Plant processed vermiculite mined from Libby, Mont., which had a natural asbestos deposit.
Many workers at that mine have died or suffered from asbestos-related diseases, resulting in a slew of lawsuits and the bankruptcy of the company.
While Janus said he has not spoken to any Dearborn workers affected with asbestos-related illness personally, he knows of at least one a man in middle-management who has contracted asbestosis.
That's why he encourages all workers at the plant now occupied by Die, Mold, and Automation Systems prior to 1990 to tell their physician.
Though workers may not feel ill, symptoms can surface from anywhere between 10 to 50 years from contact.
"Specialists throughout the state can identify asbestos-related diseases," Janus said. "They have ways to look at biomarkers, certain proteins in bodies. Usually, you don't have symptoms until it becomes difficult to breathe."
Janus said doctors can perform chest X-rays or pulmonary function tests to determine if a worker or person who was in contact with the bad vermiculite has an illness.
Though this particular strand of vermiculite came from a contaminated mine, Janus said all vermiculite, even the kind commonly used in gardening, should be treated as if it has the potential of being contaminated.
Vermiculite for gardening, which is already broken up unlike the material processed at the plant should be kept wet, Janus said.
"A home gardener has very little risk," he said. "Folks who come into contact daily have a higher risk."
And those who have the plant's insulation, sold as Zonolite, in their homes should keep it contained and not disturb it, Janus said. The product is estimated to be in about 700,000 Michigan homes.
Federal officials around the country are working to clean up the toxic mess the Libby mine left behind.
"The initial investigation at Libby opened our eyes to other plants," Janus said. "The Dearborn facility just dwarfs other factories in terms of volume."
Firm fined for asbestos violation
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued a $3,000 fine to Bogatay Construction of Klamath Falls because its workers didnt properly dispose of asbestos at the KC Building, 296 Main St.
By DYLAN DARLING
November 30, 2005 - A Klamath Falls construction company has been fined $3,000 by the state for improper disposal of asbestos from a downtown project.
Bogatay Construction has until Dec. 15 to pay the fine for failing to properly package and label broken, shattered asbestos-containing debris from the company's remodeling project of the KC Building, 296 Main St., according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
The building's old look - a tan paint job adorned with red arrows beckoning shoppers to come in to KC Paint for rugs, gifts and more at discount prices, as well as arched windows - was exposed when workers peeled off an exterior facade in spring 2004.
On Feb. 15, the DEQ sent Bogatay a notice of noncompliance detailing the company's asbestos violations. The notice came after site visits by DEQ officials in 2004 and 2005.
Asbestos fibers are a respiratory hazard proven to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and other respiratory disease, according to the DEQ. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos-contaminated air.
A state-licensed asbestos abatement contractor is required to handle the removal of friable asbestos-containing materials. Friable is the term that asbestos specialists use to describe the way it can be readily crumbled into dust.
They didn't do the basement right, said Phil Hodgen, DEQ spokesman.
Because Bogatay workers did not bag the debris properly, there was the danger of asbestos getting into the air, exposing neighbors and the public, DEQ officials said. The asbestos was mostly in insulation wrapped around pipes in the building's basement.