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Hawaii officials says asbestos violations on the rise

October 3rd, 2006

Officials with Hawaii’s Department of Health say that violations in asbestos removal have increased fivefold over the last year. Many building or apartment owners may be unaware of asbestos regulations, the officials say, or unwilling to pay the unexpected costs of properly disposing of asbestos.

Hawaii regulations require owners to hire a state inspector to check for the presence of asbestos in buildings that are being renovated. If asbestos is found, a licensed contractor must be hired to remove it from the building. Owners who ignore these regulations could face as much as $10,000 per day in fines.

“The rules are fairly straightforward,” says environmental health specialist Tom Lileikis, “but most homeowners just aren’t aware of them.” He says that the state has begun an outreach program to make homeowners aware of these rules. But he added that in many cases, violations occur because the cost of properly removing asbestos is simply “more than the homeowner would prefer.”

Asbestos removal is heavily regulated by the state because of the serious health risks associated with it. Asbestos exposure is known to cause a number of serious diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Many buildings that were built before the 1980s contain asbestos insulation; although this asbestos is safe if left undisturbed, renovations can cause its fibers to become airborne, leading to serious health risks.

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