Asbestos in Florida
Also a group of six silicate minerals, asbestos was once known as a “wonder element.” The ore was used heavily in several industrial capacities due to its cost-effectiveness, durability, and fire-resistant properties. This was before researchers discovered that asbestos could cause serious illnesses, including cancer, if a person was exposed to it for too long.
Before asbestos health-risks were discovered and even sometime after, asbestos was heavily utilized in insulation, pipes, and in the development of other industrial items. The U.S. military also used the mineral in the development of military bases, tools, vehicles, aircraft, ships, and shipyards. Of all the states, Florida ranks 2nd in asbestos-related deaths due to its prevalence in the construction of several residential and commercial structures.
Asbestos does not exist naturally in Florida but many shipments of the mineral were made to several different sites within the state. These sites then commercially distributed the product on the market to other companies that would use the mineral industrially. The top 20 counties with asbestos-related deaths in Florida are:
- Palm Beach
- St. Lucie
There was a mining site in Libby, Montana that discovered an abundance of a mineral called vermiculite in 1881. Like asbestos, vermiculite was commonly used in insulation, brake linings, roofing, and soil conditioners. The vermiculite within this mining site was also heavily contaminated with asbestos. A company known as W.R. Grace took over Libby mining operations in 1963, fully aware of the asbestos contamination.
Despite W.R. Grace’s knowledge of asbestos pollution in the mine, as well as its harmful effects on human health, they didn’t notify their employees. They also continued distributing the contaminated vermiculite to many construction and building sites around the country, especially Florida. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that over 100,000 tons of contaminated vermiculite were shipped to Tampa alone.
Asbestos occurs as a bundle of fibers that when left undisturbed, do not pose a significant health risk. However, in the case of construction, demolition, mining, renovation, and other occupations that may disturb the mineral, the fibers can become airborne and much easier to ingest or inhale. In Florida specifically, shipyards, oil refineries, power plants, and construction sites, as well as five asbestos processing plants, were functional and operating until the 1980s, significantly increasing asbestos exposure risks.
Residents of Florida who inhabit old houses or building structures are at considerable risk for exposure to asbestos. Many building products were manufactured with asbestos to increase their strength and fireproof them. Nearly all houses built before the 1980s have asbestos somewhere in their structure. Products to look out for in older residential and commercial structures include:
- Ceiling tiles and popcorn ceilings
- Corrugated roof sheets
- Decorative plaster
- Interior walls
- Pipe insulation
- Vinyl floor tiles
Since asbestos fibers are harmful when disturbed, it could be dangerous to renovate or otherwise disturb older structures. If you happen to have asbestos items in your home and need to renovate or demolish, there are professional asbestos abatement companies that can help you safely remove these items without risking exposure. Asbestos123 provides a helpful list of asbestos abatement companies located throughout the country, including Florida, that can help you safely remove asbestos from your commercial space or residence.
The Navy is the Military branch most likely to develop asbestos-related conditions due to its prevalence in ships and shipyards over other military structures. Veterans actually make up almost 30 percent of all mesothelioma diagnosis.
Florida contains 21 bases, from all branches in the military. The Pensacola/Jacksonville area houses more military bases than any other location in the state, with bases also existing in several coastal regions. The Naval Air Station in Jacksonville is actually the most extensive Navy base in the south-east region and the third-largest in the U.S. Trailing closely behind is the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Naval base located in Hawaii, and the Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia, the largest Naval base in the U.S.
Several asbestos-related conditions can develop from prolonged asbestos exposure. Diseases from asbestos have long latency periods, as sometimes an illness can take over 20 years to develop. Diseases caused by exposure to the mineral include:
The most common illness to develop from prolonged exposure. Mesothelioma occurs when tumors form in the tissue linings of the lung (pleural), heart (pericardial), or abdomen (peritoneal), the lung being the most frequent location.
Like mesothelioma, only instead of cancer forming in the tissue lining of the lungs, the tumors develop within the lung.
When asbestos fibers damage and scar lung tissues.
Fluid buildup in the space between lung and chest cavities.
Localized or diffused areas where the pleura thickens.
The most common symptom of these combined conditions is breathing difficulty. If you have reason to believe you’ve been exposed to asbestos and also have chronic breathing issues, see a doctor immediately. The earlier disease can be detected, the more treatment options a patient can have.
If you, a family member, or friend was diagnosed with mesothelioma, we have answers available at a moment’s notice.
Florida Regulations Against Asbestos
Since there’s such a daunting number of old asbestos-contaminated buildings in Florida, the state has a series of strict regulations put in place to prevent environmental exposure from the demolition of such properties. In 1982, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Asbestos Removal Program came into effect, pushed by the EPA to protect Florida residents.
Those who plan to bring changes to the structure of any of the below-listed buildings must notify the Florida DEP first:
- Commercial buildings
- Industrial structures
- Institutional buildings
- Public buildings
- Waste disposal sites
The state of Florida follows the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) to aid in protecting its residents. The NESHAP is a national set of regulations developed by the EPA, as stated by the Clean Air Act (CAA). The NESHAP puts the responsibility of proper asbestos removal onto building owners and managers. The Florida DEP is the entity responsible for administering the NESHAP regulations under the Florida Administrative Code.
The NESHAP’s purpose is to protect public health by minimizing the release of asbestos fibers during activities that involve the processing, handling, and disposal of asbestos-containing materials, otherwise known as ACMs. The program also clearly defines work practices to be followed during demolition, renovation, or disturbance of most structures, installations, and buildings. The regulations also require that the owner/operator of the building notify the correct DEP district office or local program before any demolition or renovation of ACMs.
Legal Recourse for Florida Citizens
Those diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related conditions were most likely exposed while on a job site and without their knowledge. The employer may be liable for this exposure due to negligence or lack of adherence to asbestos regulations. Victims may be eligible for compensation if they’ve developed an illness from prolonged exposure.
Patients can file a personal injury lawsuit against the companies responsible, or in the case that the patient dies before the claim is filed, a family member can file a wrongful death suit. Speak with an experienced attorney about the unique details of your potential case, they’ll be able to tell you your options and suggest the best methods for filing a claim.
Treatment Centers Near Florida
If you develop mesothelioma or another cancer due to asbestos exposure, a cancer treatment center could prove to be extremely beneficial. There’ll be an array of medical professionals with specific experience in maneuvering a patient’s cancer diagnosis and developing a treatment plan that a more general doctor may not have. Cancer treatment centers in and around Florida include:
- Moffitt Cancer Center
Main #: (813) 745 4673
New Patients: 1 (888) 860 2778
- Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Main #: (305) 243 1000
- Winship Cancer Institute | Emory University
Main #: (404) 778 1900
- O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center | University of Alabama at Birmingham
Main #: (205) 975 8222
Toll Free: 1 (800) 822 0933
Give your doctor a visit if you suspect you’ve been exposed to asbestos at any point in your life. You can also contact your local Florida Department of Environmental Protection if you have any questions about asbestos in your area.
Get the compensation you deserve. Reach out to an experienced mesothelioma attorney to find out how.