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New York Lawmakers Aim to Keep Public Safer from Asbestos

A bill before the New York state senate is designed to encourage homeowners and asbestos contractors to more readily report upcoming abatement projects.  The bill, if passed, would cap the regulatory fee associated with such projects—a fee which many think is currently too high.  Lawmakers are hopeful that the measure will lead to fewer cases of contractors skirting the law to save money and inadvertently putting workers and the general public at risk from exposure to a known carcinogen.

Current New York law is in line with Federal regulations and mandates that any property owner or contractor planning a renovation or demolition project to file paperwork notifying environmental monitoring agencies.  However, New Yorkers must pay a fee if said work will encompass 160 square feet or more of asbestos containing materials

Asbestos is commonly found in old ceiling and floor tiles, insulation, adhesives, paint, and other construction or consumer products manufactured before 1985.  It doesn’t take much to add up to 160 square feet either.  A single 12 X 12 room may contain enough materials to put you over the limit.

Requiring notification of abatement projects is a measure that was enacted to enable the government to closely monitor and regulate the asbestos removal process in order to keep workers and the general public safer from the cancer causing agent. 

Asbestos, especially when disturbed, can cause various diseases including lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma if inhaled or ingested. 

Currently, individuals can be charged up to $2,000 per abatement project, a fee which Senator Catherine Young says is too high.  A proponent of the bill, Young is in favor of capping that fee at just $500, making the official process much less expensive.  The New York state Labor and Finance Committee agreed and voted to endorse the bill. 

Regardless of whether or not the bill becomes law, it will not affect Federal regulations.  Property owners and contractors will still be required to file papers with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency before any asbestos removal project can legally begin.

This is such a hot-button issue in New York because the state has recently come under federal scrutiny due to a rash of cases involving fraudulent asbestos removal contractors who have either failed to do the work described or have failed to do so in a manner consistent with federal regulations regarding the removal, transport, and disposal of asbestos.

Young and others who support the bill hope that by making the official process less costly that more people will approach asbestos abatement in an aboveboard and legal fashion, thereby keeping people safer.