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During the 1960s and early 1970s, asbestos was a common building material used in pipe insulation and ceiling tiles. Little was known about the hazardous risks of asbestos back then.


Following a massive cover-up, the EPA enforced several rules for safely using the fibrous silicate mineral in 1989. Still, it did little to undo the damage it had already caused.


Breathing in the fibers could cause asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Because of its durability and the expense incurred to get rid of it, some homeowners don’t bother to remove asbestos from their properties.


As a tenant, you remain at a higher risk of asbestos exposure. If you find yourself in this situation, you’re probably thinking: Can I sue for asbestos exposure?

Yes, you can. But firstly, you need to know your rights as a tenant and if your case has any merit.

Landlords Accused of Neglect

A Washington Heights landlord made headlines earlier this year after refusing to heed tenant complaints. Claims of leaking sewer water, rats and asbestos gained Daniel Ohebshalom the title of “worst landlord of New York City.”

Atlanta discovered asbestos in every unit at a vacant South Side apartment complex. The buildings, owned by Millennia Housing Management, were due for demolition in April. Due to the presence of the carcinogen, bulldozing had to be put on hold.

It’s not just New York, Atlanta and the U.S. battling the asbestos fallout and asbestos litigation. The legacy of the toxic material reaches far and wide. According to the WHO, more than 90,000 people around the globe die every year from an asbestos-related disease. Asbestos exposure lawsuits are set to increase.

South Africa, for instance, has possibly the highest incidence of malignant mesothelioma anywhere in the world. About 29 Gauteng schools built with asbestos were earmarked for replacement. To date, only four have been rebuilt.

What Are My Rights?

TorHoerman Law says situations in which a tenant can encounter asbestos in a residential unit can vary. 

You might not have even known you were living in a ticking time bomb. Renovations or repair work could have alerted you to asbestos being present. 

And, that’s not a very good sign. When exposed, the micro-fine fibers become airborne and dangerous. Additionally, asbestos-containing material can degrade naturally, via water damage or stress.

If you have developed health issues related to asbestos, you could have a case and explore your legal options with an asbestos lawyer. Proving your landlord knowingly or neglected to disclose asbestos in your rental property is grounds for legal recourse.

Governments around the world have generally strict regulations about asbestos. U.S. states in particular have laws protecting the tenant. 

These include landlords being liable for asbestos exposure. Property owners are also obligated to remove or safely maintain asbestos.

There are elements attached to a personal injury lawsuit. These are:

  • Duty of care
  • Breach of duty
  • Causation
  • Damages

Cost of Asbestos Removal

Forbes reported the costs for interior asbestos removal can be anywhere between $5 and $20 per square foot. Exterior removal usually costs more ($50 to $150 per square foot).

Removing the material is probably the most dangerous due to the fibers being disturbed. It’s a complex task that requires a trained expert. 

Some professionals offer services such as testing, assessment, and correction. In some countries, you may even require a special permit for the removal.

In the meantime, if you suspect asbestos in your rental, don’t do the following:

  • Dust, sweep or vacuum asbestos debris
  • Saw or drill holes in asbestos material
  • Use abrasive pads or power tools to strip asbestos flooring

Reducing Toxic Properties of Asbestos

Recent research showed promising results. A NIEHS-supported study found bacteria from extreme marine environments could help reduce the toxic properties of asbestos. 

The study aimed to lower the toxicity of the minerals found in asbestos for safer disposal or reuse as secondary materials. 

Currently, the only way of disposing of asbestos is to dump it in landfills. This further adds to the planet’s global waste problem. There’s also the issue of the fibers escaping and entering the water supply. A more permanent solution is needed.

Graham Gould, the owner of Thermal Recycling, spent 10 years trying to “denture” asbestos. Using heat, he changed the properties of the material to no longer be harmful.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s not to bury our problems. The same goes for asbestos removal. Out of sight and out of mind is not the answer. Countries need to come up with a clear and safe plan to deal with asbestos once and for all.

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