Asbestos and its handling is heavily regulated due to the serious health complications that it can cause. Although the toxic substance is no longer actively used for construction, its popularity in the past has allowed it to persist in a significant number of existing structures. Disclosure of its presence is necessary for workers who must subsequently take safety precautions in order to prevent dangerous asbestos exposure. A company based outside of Ohio recently had to answer federal charges after it was accused of failing to disclose an asbestos risk to workers.
The Mississippi Queen was constructed in 1976 and subsequently went into service along the Mississippi River. It continued service until 2001, when the company that owned it ultimately went bankrupt. Another company took over the Mississippi Queen's operations after that and kept it going for another six years until the vessel was ultimately shored in 2007. At the time, its parent company intended on renovating the boat and setting it back to work, but in the end, it was sold off as scrap material.
Cheery Way Inc. purchased the ship in 2010 and had it tested for possible asbestos. The results returned conclusive evidence of the substance in both the ceilings and the walls of the vessel. However, federal prosecutors claim that Cheery Way informed neither the company responsible for the deconstruction nor federal regulators. Without that crucial information, deconstruction efforts started on the boat without any safety precautions put in place to protect the workers. The owner of Cheery Way later pleaded guilty to the charges and will face time behind bars and heavy fines, but this does not erase the unnecessary harm inflicted on unwitting individuals.
The ramifications of asbestos exposure are not always immediately clear, and in most cases, the ill effects can take years and even decades to manifest in Ohio victims. However, any resulting illness or cancer from asbestos is typically an irreversible death sentence. Criminal consequences can be somewhat comforting to victims and their families, but they are often not adequate in terms of damages. Instead, victims and their families are often better compensated through the civil court system, where monetary compensation can be achieved.
Source: kentucky.com, "Woman pleads guilty to concealing Mississippi Queen asbestos", Jan. 16, 2016