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Demolition of vacant homes draws concerns

As we have reported in past posts, demolition projects must be carefully planned and executed so that harmful substances are not carried into the air. Especially when materials containing asbestos are considered, demolition projects can pose a health risk to workers and passersby alike.

A recent story in the Kansas City Star exemplified these concerns, as hundreds of vacant homes are being torn down on the city's east side. Concerns are being raised after demolitions in recent months have shown clouds of dust and other particles billowing into the sky as if smoke was being released.

The Star reported that several residents and onlookers were surprised by the amount of debris that spread during the project, but the manager of Kansas City's dangerous building division was undeterred. He explained that there was simply no way to avoid particles from being spread.

While there is some truth to the manager's statement, demolition companies have a duty to follow specific EPA regulations that would reduce the amount of harmful materials spread during projects. For instance, crews must wet down buildings (and materials) thought to include asbestos. Even before the building is taken down, there are steps workers can take to "deconstruct" the building by removing suspected harmful materials from the inside prior to razing it.

Further, the area surrounding the building (or home) could be secured in anticipation of some dust being spread, but such a barrier could limit the number of people who could come in contact with harmful materials. Also, the better the public notice about the project, the better the likelihood innocent people will avoid being exposed to harmful materials.

Source: Kansas, Dust from demolition of hundreds of KC homes poses health risk, March 16, 2013

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