State officials are concerned that mishandling of asbestos during a 2006 remodeling project at the West Salem retirement community could have caused some residents or employees to be exposed to respirable asbestos fibers. An investigator with the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) has said that the department cannot rule out the possibility that residents or workers at the facility inhaled asbestos.
The owner and two contractors have been fined a total of $64,058 for asbestos violations. Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division had previously cited the facility for workplace violations–including failure to perform an exposure assessment before tearing out drywall. ODEQ’s investigation followed the workplace safety complaint and found that the contractors cut into asbestos-containing walls, piled the asbestos-containing material in the open, and disposed of it by throwing it into open dumpsters. Mishandling asbestos can cause people to inhale the cancer-causing fibers. Asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma, lung cancer, and various other cancers and respiratory diseases. The owner of the retirement community has paid its $29,948 fine and has acknowledged its fault.
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