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Philly Building Collapse May have Released Asbestos Dust

In late spring of 2013, national attention was captured by the collapse of a building in Philadelphia’s Center City district. The building collapsed while in the midst of a planned demolition, killing several people in an adjacent Salvation Army Store. Now it is coming out that the demolition company responsible may have provided false information regarding the presence of asbestos in the building, and first responders and passersby alike may have been exposed to unknown amounts of the deadly carcinogen.

Before the demolition work began, the owner of the building, STB Investment Corporation, had submitted paperwork to the city of Philadelphia indicating that there was no asbestos found and that therefore no asbestos abatement would be required. But after the building collapse on June 5th, the company that has been hired to clear the debris from the site of the disaster has submitted an invoice for asbestos removal by a certified asbestos removal firm, indicating that asbestos is clearly present and needs to be carefully dealt with.

Asbestos was used with great frequency in construction in center city Philadelphia; it was popular due to its insulating characteristics and heat and flame retardance, but its use was banned after it was determined that it was responsible for a variety of deadly illnesses, including lung cancer, asbestos and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a particularly deadly form of cancer that can occur after inhalation of a single fiber of asbestos; it grows extremely slowly, and often takes decades before symptoms make themselves known. Because it takes so long to be identified, treatment is extremely challenging and the illness is always considered fatal.

A Philadelphia city councilman who is familiar with the situation says that it appears that the lowest bid that had been submitted for the demolition project was the one that indicated that there was no need for asbestos removal. That bid was offered by Griffin Campbell Construction Company, the company that was working when the demolition project collapsed, and now that submission is coming under question.  If asbestos was present on the site during the demolition, it means that those who passed by the building on Philadelphia’s busy Market Street could have inhaled or ingested dangerous asbestos fibers; the same is true for those first responders who entered the building in search of survivors following the building collapse. At the time of the disaster, the recovery effort went on for over 24 hours.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an experienced blog writer, editor, and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of expertise include health, medical research, and law.

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