Vent pipes inside of a mass transit bus depot in Brooklyn may have been spewing asbestos particles into air breathed by thousands of individuals for years, according to the New York Daily News.
According to an investigative report published on September 23, thousands of mass transit employees and dozens of high school interns could have been exposed to mesothelioma-causing fibers as a result of air being pumped into the building through vent pipes lined with deteriorating asbestos cloth.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) bus depot location in East New York was found to contain nearly 60 air vent pipes lined with an asbestos-laced cloth earlier this year. The cloth was designed to make the air vents less noisy by reducing vibrations, according to New York Daily News. However, it could have resulted in the release of asbestos particles for years throughout the first three floors of the bus depot.
The New York Daily News report indicates that an estimated 700 bus operators, 120 maintenance workers, 50 dispatchers and 100 office workers may have been exposed to asbestos fibers in the air on a daily basis for decades.
The Brooklyn MTA building was constructed in 1947, when asbestos mineral were widely used in U.S. products. While nearly all uses for asbestos are currently banned, the product remains in many older buildings.
Currently, the majority of vent pipes at the Brooklyn bus depot that were constructed during the time when asbestos was used remain largely untouched, and are currently in a corroding state.
According to the report, the asbestos vents were discovered during a replacement of equipment in one of the rooms, when a worker noticed several of the asbestos cloths were frayed, spilling dust carcinogenic dust into the bus depot firth three floors of air circulation.
Despite the recognition of the potential hazard earlier this year by MTA officials, New York Daily News claims the agency has only taken minor steps to improve the conditions by removing some of the frayed cloth and placing signs on the vent pipes that read ““DO NOT DISTURB OR TOUCH THE VIBRATION CLOTH. THE VIBRATION CLOTH MATERIALS ON THIS UNIT CONTAINS ASBESTOS.” Critics have claimed the MTA turned a blind eye to the potential dangers of its employees, putting them at risk of long-term mesothelioma risk on a daily basis.
Since the discovery of the asbestos, workers and engineers have urged MTA managers to shut down the vents to let specialists clear the contamination, however officials reportedly declined the requests, maintaining that the asbestos in the building is not harmful, despite the signs they placed on the vent pipes stating otherwise.
Asbestos was widely used in American commercial product manufacturing throughout the 20th century and was embedded in thousands of products before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began passing regulations on asbestos in the 1970’s when research linked asbestos exposure to mesothelioma.
Exposure to asbestos fibers has been linked to a number of forms of respiratory illnesses and cancer, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, where the only known cause is asbestos exposure. As a result of a long latency period of between 20 and 40 years between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis, the cancer is often at a very advanced stage by the time it is discovered and usually results in death.
Currently, asbestos is banned for use in corrugated paper, roll board, commercial paper, and specialty paper, flooring felt and new commercial uses that begin after August 25, 1989. However, even though the fibrous material is toxic even in small amounts, it is still in use in some industries. It is frequently used in automobile brake pads and clutches, vinyl tiles and roofing materials.
Although asbestos has been banned in more than 60 countries, and is the number one cause of work-related deaths in the world, the United States still continues to import and use the cancer-causing material in every day products, despite recognizing its potential dangers more than 40 years ago.