EPA Stops Use of Controversial Asbestos Removal Method Near Airport

Asbestos is Uncontrolled Using "Wet Method" for Demolition

ST LOUIS, MO-August 20, 2004-The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revoked permission for St. Louis' Lambert Airport Authority to use the wet removal method of asbestos control when demolishing houses near the airport (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 7, 2004). The wet method lets workers spray asbestos-containing areas with a fire hose, then destroy the building with the asbestos in place. This controversial procedure may allow asbestos to become airborne. It also conflicts with the Clean Air Act and government regulations requiring asbestos to be contained, hand-removed, and bagged before a demolition can take place.

For four years, the airport authority used the wet removal method when razing houses to make way for airport expansion. The EPA says that it did not know about the unapproved use until 2003, when many houses had already been demolished. The agency then gave its approval for the airport authority to continue using the wet removal method. More than 260 older homes and eight buildings near the Lambert airport have been demolished. The airport authority tested only 29 of these homes for asbestos content before they were torn down, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The current turnabout in EPA policy comes after media coverage, internal agency outrage, and public protest about the wet removal method. The EPA has also told officials in Fort Worth, Texas, to halt plans to use the wet removal method to tear down a hotel in that area. See EPA Won't Approve "Wet Method" of Asbestos Removal in Fort Worth.

Asbestos Diseases May Take Years to Develop

There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Even low levels of asbestos can cause diseases that take years to develop. The worst of these, an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma, may not develop until 20 to 40 years or more after initial asbestos exposure. Symptoms of asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis, a painful scarring of the lungs, may also take several decades to become apparent. Therefore, we cannot expect to see signs of any medical harm done from asbestos releases in the neighborhoods near the airport until many years from now.

As attorneys for asbestos victims, we are well aware that asbestos is still present in many homes and products. If you have developed an asbestos-related disease, please contact our asbestos attorneys to learn about your legal options. We have been handling asbestos litigation since 1984, and work aggressively to protect the legal rights of our clients.