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Asbestos Found in New Orleans Courthouse

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

According to remodeling reports, asbestos was recently discovered in Orleans Parish criminal courthouse, causing it to shut down last week. The reports came from the New Orleans City Attorney’s Office via a public records request.

The 2016 inspection report showed 40% of bulk samples taken from the 86-year-old building’s ground and first floors tested positive for asbestos. This resulted in an “immediate response action” required in two areas.

These areas are located in pipe insulation on the first floor. Because they were damaged so severely, they qualified as “EPA Hazard Category 1.” Algiers-based Materials Management Group prepared the reports. The asbestos remediation contractor needed an extra two days to remove the “immediate response action” areas.

These asbestos contractors specialize in asbestos inspection, testing, and removal. It’s important to hire the trained experts because if any part of the process is not conducted properly, then asbestos exposure can occur.

For example, if the asbestos is disturbed or damaged, then the fibers release into the air. At that point they can be inhaled by those in the surrounding vicinity and lead to a host of health problems, including mesothelioma cancer. This type of cancer is extremely aggressive and can affect the linings of the lungs, abdomen or heart.

Regulation of asbestos did not occur until 1970 with the passage of the Clean Air Act. Around 10,000 people a year die in the U.S. due to asbestos-related illnesses, according to the Environmental Working Group Action Fund.

Cloth, wrap, and spray-on asbestos-containing insulation was also found in and around Section C. Judge Benedict Willard’s courtroom on the first floor of the building. They were determined to be an EPA Hazard Category 7 as they were in good enough condition. No immediate removal is necessary, only warning labels.

Insulation products were among the most common sources of asbestos exposure prior to the early 1980s in residential and commercial buildings. Because the populace was relatively uninformed about the dangers of asbestos contamination, but quite well informed about the dangers of fire, public demand for fireproofing technology was very strong.

Now construction company Battco Construction and Maintenance is working on the publicly funded renovation project. Two new courtrooms are to be built where the EPA Hazard Category 1 problems were found. According to City Hall spokeswoman Erin Burns, the job should be finished by summer 2018.

The rest of the building did not have asbestos samples collected since they’re not part of the construction plan.