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New York Attorney Offers Homeowner Tips on Picking Asbestos Contractor

Joseph W. Belluck, asbestos and mesothelioma lawyer of Belluck & Fox, LLP, says homeowners should be selective in choosing asbestos removal company

New York, NY Aug. 3, 2009—Homeowners who must have asbestos removed, including “popcorn ceiling removal,” during remodeling of an older home should carefully select a licensed asbestos abatement contractor, a New York attorney says.

“Homeowners who need to take this step should be very careful in their selection of an asbestos removal contractor,” said Joseph W. Belluck, a partner at the New York law firm of Belluck & Fox, LLP, which handles asbestos-related injury cases. “They don’t want to end up like the South Orange firefighters, camped out for seven years with unforeseen costs while their house is gutted.”

Firefighters in South Orange New Jersey just moved back into their historic 1925 firehouse after the discovery of asbestos in the walls and roof/floor tiles turned a planned 18-month remodeling project begun in 2002 into a seven-year ordeal that added $700,000 to the cost of the renovation.

Most products today do not contain asbestos. But until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in home construction contained asbestos. So it’s not uncommon for older houses to have some asbestos.

Common products include steam pipes and furnace ducts insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape, vinyl asbestos floor tiles, soundproofing or decorative material sprayed on walls or ceilings, and asbestos cement roofing singles.

Before you have your house remodeled, find out first if asbestos materials are present, Belluck said. If asbestos is present but won’t be disturbed, often the best course is to leave it alone, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Asbestos is only harmful if inhaled.

Breathing of asbestos fibers can lead to respiratory illnesses including lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs.

If you’re going to make renovations or changes to your house that cause asbestos fibers to be released into the air, it’s essential to have a trained professional either encapsulate or remove the asbestos materials first. Removal is usually the most expensive option and poses the greatest risk of fiber release. Asbestos professionals can conduct home inspections, take samples of suspected asbestos material, and design corrective action plans.

The Asbestos Control Bureau in the New York State Department of Labor has lists of all current asbestos removal contractors. It can be found at the following website under asbestos contractors lists:

http://www.labor.state.ny.us/workerprotection/safetyhealth/DOSH_ASBESTOS.shtm

“One list is organized by zip code so it’s easy to find an abatement contractor near your home,” Belluck said. “The list includes contractors in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, as well as, of course, New York.”

It’s a good idea to get several estimates, because costs can vary, and then ask for references from their three most recent customers, Belluck said.

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