Asbestos Removal Underway At Chicago’s Lake County Prosecutor’s Office

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

$150k will be spent to remove asbestos from the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office in Chicago. The 50 employees have been moved from the center to the Westwind building across the street while the abatement and remodeling of the office takes place.

The office air has been tested numerous times and results say it’s now safe to breathe. Once the renovations start and the asbestos-containing materials are moved, the asbestos could become airborne. Therefore, the office was moved to prevent any health risks to employees.

Asbestos is highly toxic and was widely used in a large number of building materials, so it’s important to test for its presence, especially before initiating any building repairs or improvements on structures that were built prior to 1980. The peak of asbestos use occurred from the late 1930s through the end of the 1970s.

Failure to perform testing can put human lives at risk for inhaling airborne asbestos fibers during the repair or renovation. Asbestos exposure has causal links to mesothelioma, a type of asbestos cancer.

Unfortunately, the number one cause of occupational cancer in the U.S. is asbestos, even more than 30 years after its widespread use was essentially halted. It accounts for 54% of all occupational cancers, according to the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.

“I think it came as a shock to everybody that [the office move] was going to happen and happen so quickly,” said Chief Deputy Prosecutor Barbara McConnell. “We need to look at the big picture. We’ll end up with a new office with no asbestos. But change is not easy.”

The work will take about three months to complete. Commissioners did not want to take any chances, so the safest option was to move the employees and let the construction continue uninterrupted.

Whether discovered at home or in the workplace, asbestos should be handled by licensed professionals who are trained in management, abatement, and disposal of toxic material. Licensed asbestos contractors will conduct removal properly to ensure no one is exposed to the harmful asbestos fibers in accordance with government regulations and guidelines.

“It’s definitely going to be an easier fix,” said Commissioner Michael Repay, D-Hammond. “The work has been planned for some time.” Employees received a memo in December informing them of the move and abatement.

It’ll take five days and 23 semitrailers to transport all of the office items, but the new, temporary office should be operational after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.