July 24, 2008 - Known to cause a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma, asbestos was recently found during the development of a new housing project. The area of the site was known as North Miamii’s Pioneer Gardens, located in Denver, Colorado, and was expected to house 136 units for low-income families.
However, when the contractor began digging, it was discovered that workers previously hired to clear the site had mistakenly caused an asbestos leak. The leak was coming from broken asbestos-containing pipes located underground, but was never documented. The workers at the time simply covered up the leak with piles of dirt without following the steps of proper notification required of such hazards.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was often used for its insulating properties and fireproofing capabilities. It was fitted in nearly all construction projects before the 1990s, including commercial, domestic, and industrial buildings. When damaged or disturbed, asbestos releases toxic fibers that have the potential to float in the air for weeks at a time and cause serious illnesses such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
Due to extreme latency periods, it can take anywhere from 15 to 50 years for some of these illnesses to develop. While this may seem like a blessing to some, it is actually a curse, because the long latency period makes it difficult for doctors to decide on treatment options. By the time a person with malignant mesothelioma begins to show symptoms, they might be in their elderly years and already living with a disease in its latest stages of development.
Local officials are worried for individuals living near the site who may have been exposed to the deadly substance. Because of the increased risk, they are urging everyone nearby to contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
The asbestos contamination has also increased the total cost of the housing project by five times the original estimated amount. This has contractors wondering exactly how affordable the housing development will be, and will likely affect the families who were interested in living there.
By Jensen Whitmer