Companies to Pay for Workers' Asbestos Poisoning Tests

January 28, 2013

217356_elevator_repair.jpgMesothelioma attorneys report that the Lowell Housing Authority has agreed to pay for asbestos poisoning screenings for its maintenance employees. The company was recently accused of improperly handling asbestos during a major renovation project.

According to federal documents, in February 2012 the FBI and the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General (MA OIG) conducted an investigation into possible illegal removal actions at the North Common Village site. Although the FBI and MA OIG concluded the allegations were unfounded, two other state agencies called for further investigations, claiming the North Common Village renovations lacked proper asbestos testing.

The additional investigation tested one unit of the North Common Village site and found asbestos in a layer of floor tile and its adhesive, as well as in kitchen sink coating. The worker screenings are in response to these findings. The president of the union representing Lowell Housing Authority's maintenance workers, Angelo Karabatsos, stated that he has no doubt that some of the workers were exposed to asbestos for years before asbestos regulations were put in place. He added that workers may also be tested for lead poisoning, and that close to 50 Lowell Housing Authority workers will be eligible for screening.

Some maintenance workers have been employed at Lowell Housing for many years, even pre-dating the U.S. asbestos ban. Until 1979, asbestos was used abundantly in the construction industry and in many of the old buildings at the Lowell Housing Authority.
The asbestos was found in the North Common building that had not yet been renovated.

In building materials, asbestos was used as an insulator, fire-retardant and for sound-proofing and adhesions, among other purposes. Asbestos minerals are microscopic, odorless, and tasteless, which is why professionals must be hired to locate and remove all asbestos-containing materials before any buildings are renovated or demolished.
Paying for at-risk workers to be screened for asbestos-related diseases is, fortunately, becoming more and more common. Leaders of the United Autoworkers (UAW) in Cleveland arranged for screenings to be conducted at its union hall in Warren, Ohio.

Union leaders recognized that current and former workers may have been exposed to asbestos. Many retired members heard that other facilities were conducting similar screenings and felt they were entitled to the opportunity. The first screenings took place in November, and additional screenings are being planned for this spring. Those identified as having asbestos exposure are referred to their own physicians for follow-up testing and treatment.

In 2004, United Autoworkers conducted a similar screening at their union hall in Missouri. Floyd Bryson's came back positive for asbestosis, a chronic and painful condition affecting the elasticity of the lungs. Bryson, an avid outdoorsman and General Motors worker of 43 years, could barely say a few words before he had to stop to catch his breath. Asbestos circulated throughout the plant Bryson worked at for over four decades whenever asbestos-coated piping was repaired. Although Bryson was reluctant to sue, the asbestosis forced him to retire early and significantly compromised his quality of life. He also learned that GM knew of many red flags concerning the presence of asbestos and chose to ignore them. Bryson filed a lawsuit against GM and dozens of other companies, ultimately settling for an undisclosed amount.

Mesothelioma attorneys commend the efforts of United Autoworkers and the Lowell Housing Authority for recognizing the health hazards of asbestos exposure and giving their employees the opportunity to detect any related illness as early as possible. Other unions with high-risk workers include those in the shipbuilding, railroad, plumbing and mining industries. If you or someone you love was exposed to asbestos and developed a related disease, you may be entitled to compensation, and should contact an experienced asbestos exposure attorney immediately for a free legal consultation.