$37M Verdict in NJ Talc Mesothelioma Trial

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A Middlesex County New Jersey jury awarded four sets of plaintiffs $37 million dollars against Johnson & Johnson for mesothelioma caused by talc baby powder. The consolidated trial lasted almost three months, and at the end, the judge struck the Johnson & Johnson attorney’s entire closing argument, ruling that the attorney had made improper comments on the evidence.

The jury’s unanimous verdict was that all of the plaintiffs had been exposed to asbestos by using Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder and Shower to Shower talcum powders contaminated with asbestos. The jury also unanimously ruled that J&J failed to warn the plaintiffs about the dangers of its talcum body powders. In a 5-1 vote, the jury ruled that those actions caused the plaintiffs’ mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare and fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

The award is for compensatory damages only. Punitive damages may be awarded in a separate phase of the trial. Plaintiffs Douglas Barden and his wife, Roslyn Barden were awarded $7.25 million; David Etheridge and his wife, Darlene Etheridge were awarded $9.45 million; D’Angela McNeill was awarded $14.7 million; and William Ronning and his wife, Elizabeth Ronning. were awarded $5.9 million.

Johnson & Johnson had previously asked for a mistrial based on the trial judge striking its counsel’s closing argument from the record; after the verdict was announced, Johnson & Johnson said they intend to appeal the decision. Johnson & Johnson faces over 10,000 talc-related cancer claims in both federal and state courts. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the United States Department of Justice subpoenaed Johnson & Johnson in February for documents on talc powder safety. This followed a Reuters report published in December of 2018 entitled “Special Report: J&J knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder”.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer – either mesothelioma or ovarian cancer – after using talcum powder (including Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower Powder, baby powder, Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet, or Avon’s body powder products), you may have a legal claim for damages. Call Thornton Law Firm’s female mesothelioma attorneys,  Leah McMorris or Leslie-Anne Taylor for a free, no obligation evaluation of your legal claim at 1-888-341-1405. Or tell us your story here. Seek legal advice immediately if you believe you may have a claim. Like all lawsuits, baby powder lawsuits must be filed within strict time limits.

Claire’s Recalls Makeup Containing Asbestos

Claire's makeup recall

By Leah McMorris, Esq. and Leslie-Anne Taylor, Esq.

Published on June 26, 2019

This month the mall retailer Claire’s was forced to voluntarily recall a makeup kit marketed to pre-teens and teenagers after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests showed the presence of asbestos. The product, Claire’s JoJo Siwa’s Tween Makeup Set, is  the subject of a June 6, 2019 Safety Alert by the FDA. This was the second recall of makeup products containing asbestos by Claire’s in the last three months.

The FDA recommends on its website that consumers who have this batch of Claire’s JoJo Siwa Tween Makeup Set should stop using the products, and the company said it will issue refunds to consumers. The specific lot affected is:

  • Claire’s JoJo Siwa Makeup Set, SKU #888711136337, Batch/Lot No. S180109

In the same statement, the Food and Drug Administration also recalled products from Beauty Plus Global, a Chinese company. The specific product of theirs recalled was Beauty Plus Global Contour Effects Palette 2, Batch No. S1603002/PD-C1179.

Claire’s History of Asbestos-Tainted Product Recalls

Claire’s products have been scrutinized since 2017 when a Rhode Island mom had her daughter’s makeup from Claire’s tested and was shocked to find that it contained asbestos. In all Claire’s issued recalls on nine (9) of its products at that time:

  • Ultimate Mega Make Up Set, code 71844.
  • Metallic Hot Pink Glitter 48-Piece Makeup Set, code 76094.
  • Pink Glitter Cellphone Makeup Compact, code 26556.
  • Bedazzled Rainbow Heart Makeup Set, code 11767.
  • Rainbow Bedazzled Star Make Up Set, code 20926.
  • Rainbow Glitter Heart Shaped Makeup Set, code 97275.
  • Mint Glitter Make Up Set, code 74769.
  • Rainbow Bedazzled Rectangle Make Up Set, code 21044.
  • Pink Glitter Palette with Eyeshadow & Lip Gloss, code 97276.

In March of this year, Claire’s recalled another three makeup products after FDA testing found that the products were contaminated with tremolite asbestos.  Tremolite, an amphibole form of asbestos, is often present in talc, an ingredient often used in cosmetics.

The lots recalled for containing asbestos in March 2019 were:

  • Claire’s Eye Shadows — Batch No/Lot No: 08/17
  • Claire’s Compact Powder — Batch No/Lot No: 07/15
  • Claire’s Contour Palette — Batch No/Lot No: 04/17

When the first recall occurred in 2017, Claire’s disputed the validity of the asbestos tests performed by the independent testing agencies, Scientific Analytical Institute (SAI) and STAT Analysis Corporation (STAT). Despite this, in March of this year Claire’s issued a statement stating that it has switched to talc-free manufacturing for all its products.

Talc and Health

Talc has been implicated in the development of cancer. Both ovarian cancer and mesothelioma are associated with the use of cosmetic talc.  Mesothelioma, a cancer that is only caused by asbestos, is probably caused by the asbestos contaminant in talc. Exposure to cosmetic talc is associated with ovarian cancer, although scientists are not exactly sure of how it causes cancer. To read more on talc and cancer, click here.

What Can You Do?

You must check your children’s makeup products for the presence of talc. Talc may be described on a label as talc, talcum powder, magnesium silicate, or cosmetic talc. The FDA does not have pre-market review authority and cannot enforce any recall over cosmetics. Unfortunately, because of this regulatory gap, there is no federal agency with primary responsibility for regulating asbestos or talc in makeup.

Another Johnson & Johnson Talc Cancer Verdict: $29 Million


By Leah M. McMorris and Leslie-Anne Taylor

Posted on March 19, 2019

A California jury awarded $29 million to a woman dying from mesothelioma cancer in her lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, attributing her development of the asbestos-linked cancer to her use of J&J baby powder.

Plaintiff Teresa Leavitt, the mother of two children, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017. She is not expected to live beyond 2020, according to testimony of her doctors. The jury awarded her $2.49 million in past and future lost economic damages as well as $22 million for noneconomic damages past and future. Her husband was awarded $5 million for loss of consortium. No punitive damages were awarded.

Ms. Leavitt testified that baby powder was used on her when she was a child. As an adult, she continued to use J&J baby powder, as a “dry shampoo” or on her face as a foundation for her makeup.

Her lawyers introduced evidence that Johnson & Johnson learned of the presence of asbestos in talc mined in Vermont and Italy, but never alerted government regulators or consumers. No warning label about the presence or hazards of asbestos has ever been placed on Johnson & Johnson talc powders, including J&J Shower to Shower and baby powders.

The jury found J&J’s actions a substantial contributing factor in causing Leavitt’s mesothelioma. They also found that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn her of the cancer risk in using their products and intentionally withheld facts about the safety of their product. . The state court jury of seven men and five women included an attorney and a state court judge.

The plaintiffs were represented by trial attorneys Joseph Satterley and Denyse Clancy of Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, Oakland, California, and Moshe Maimon of Levy Konigsberg LLP, New York, New York.

Johnson & Johnson has announced plans to appeal the verdict. It faces another 13,000 similar cases across the country.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or ovarian cancer after using Johnson & Johnson talc powder (including baby powder and Shower to Shower Powder), you may have a legal claim. Call Thornton Law Firm’s baby powder attorneys, female mesothelioma lawyers Marilyn McGoldrick, Leah McMorris and Leslie-Anne Taylor for a confidential, free evaluation of your legal rights at 1-888-341-1405. Or tell us your story here to discuss your legal claim and how you should proceed.


Talc Cancer: $4.69 Billion Dollar Verdict Against Johnson & Johnson

By: Marilyn McGoldrick, Esq.

UPDATE: The trial judge, Judge Rex Burlison, upheld the verdict on appeal, stating that “substantial evidence was adduced at trial of particularly reprehensible conduct” and that the jury was entitled to draw the conclusion from the evidence that Johnson & Johnson “knew of the presence of asbestos in products that they knowingly targeted for sale to mothers and babies, knew of the damage their products caused, and misrepresented the safety of these products for decades.”

Published July 18, 2018

Twenty-two women who had ovarian cancer were awarded a total of $4.69 billion dollars in their claims against Johnson & Johnson. All the cancer-stricken women had used Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and Shower-to-Shower talcum powder for many years. This is by far the largest verdict against Johnson & Johnson in a talc cancer case to date. The Missouri state court jury awarded a total of $550 million in compensatory damages to the women, and added a punitive damage award of $4.14 billion dollars. It is the largest verdict in a jury trial in the United States in 2018.

The plaintiffs presented evidence about the carcinogenic properties of both talc and asbestos. A 1971 article about  talc and carcinoma of the ovary and cervix was introduced as evidence. The plaintiffs presented evidence that Johnson & Johnson’s talc products also contained asbestos. They disputed Johnson & Johnson’s tests showing its talc didn’t contain asbestos, presenting evidence that the tests were rigged by only finding asbestos if a certain level was present, or testing extremely small sample sizes. Evidence presented indicating that if tests did find asbestos, Johnson and Johnson then sent the talc to a different lab for testing. Memos and reports were introduced from Johnson & Johnson scientists going back decades showing concern over asbestos in the talc in J&J’s powders.

This verdict is the latest in a series of verdicts against Johnson and Johnson in talc cancer cases.  Five previous cases were tried against J&J in St. Louis, and four resulted in verdicts for the plaintiff. Individual verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs of $55 million dollars and $72 million dollars were reversed after the United States Supreme Court issued a new decision on the issue of personal jurisdiction. The other two verdicts, for $110 million dollars and  $70 million dollars are still on appeal. In California, a jury awarded the plaintiff a $417 million verdict, in a talc ovarian cancer case,  but that verdict was reversed by the trial judge.

One juror interviewed after this verdict stated that the punitive damages amount, $4.14 billion, was calculated by multiplying the annual revenue from baby powder ($70 million) by the number of years Johnson & Johnson had known talc was an issue. Punitive damages in Missouri are limited by state law to five times the amount of actual damages, so the punitive damage award will be reduced. Johnson and Johnson has indicated it will appeal the verdict.

It is recommended that women who use talcum powder switch to arrowroot, cornstarch, or any other non-talc powder. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using talcum powder, call the talc powder lawyers at Thornton Law Firm for a  confidential, no charge consultation. Thornton Law Firm has represented victims of asbestos exposure for 40 years. Call Attorney Marilyn McGoldrick at 1-888-341-1405 or tell us your story online for a thorough, comprehensive evaluation of your legal rights. If you have developed ovarian cancer, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Personal injury claims have very short time limits that are strictly enforced by the courts. Do not put off getting a legal opinion.

Great Teamwork Leads to Great Results

By: Andrew S. Wainwright, Esq.

Published on October 18, 2017

After working for two incredible trial results in two weeks for our clients, Thornton Law Firm would like to recognize the hard work and dedication of the asbestos trial team members:

Sandi Goodwin and Lee McKenney worked tirelessly to support Andy Wainwright and Andrea Landry, and the Waters & Kraus lawyers, staying late and performing beautifully under great pressure for weeks.

Dodie Rodrigues, Kymm Smith, Joyce Murphy, Diane Mazin, Janine LoVuolo and Malissa Riehl all volunteered time, effort, and experience staying late each night to work with the trial team on weekends and after hours (even in scorching temperatures when the air conditioning was out!).

Chris Corradetti, Joe Souza, Denise Whitlock, and Kerry Brennan all provided top-notch paralegal support putting the cases together, performing investigatory work, and working with exhibits and other trial issues.

Leah McMorris, Brian Freer, and Leslie-Anne Taylor drafted countless winning bench memoranda and other research projects, motions in limine, jury instructions, and were there with all-around workhorse trial support 24/7.

Bill Warren and Nolando Brice provided seamless technical support and logistics.

We will never forget why we do the work we do for families like the Rosses and Sylvestres.  But we must also remember that without the support of truly great team members like you, none of it would be possible.  On behalf of the Rosses, the Sylvestres, and all of our other asbestos clients: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Call 888-491-9726 for a free consultation with Thornton Law Firm, a recognized leader in mesothelioma and asbestos litigation. You can also contact us online to discuss the details of your case.

Johnson & Johnson Knew of Asbestos Risk in Talc For Over Forty Years

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Call 888-491-9726 for a free consultation with a recognized leader in toxic exposure litigation. You can also contact us online to discuss the details of your case.

By: Marilyn McGoldrick, Esq.

Published on September 25, 2017

Johnson & Johnson was alerted to the risk of asbestos contamination of its talc in a 1973 company report about J&J’s Windsor Materials talc mine in Vermont. The document was recently produced in a deposition of Johnson & Johnson’s chief medical officer, Joanne Waldstreicher, and reported by Bloomberg.

The 1973 report noted that J&J was working with federal officials to look for fibers that could indicate asbestos was present at the Windsor Materials talc mine.  The report goes on to discuss the significance of this:

A J&J official said in that report that the company’s baby powder “contains talc fragments classifiable as fiber. Occasionally sub-trace quantities of” two types of asbestos “are identifiable and these might be classified as asbestos fiber.’’

Concerned that asbestos may have tainted talc used in the company’s products, a J&J official suggested the company move toward using corn starch in its consumer products rather than talc, according to the report.

Another unsealed document shows that J&J pushed its Italian talc mine to stop distributing a booklet that revealed the presence of trace amounts of asbestos in the talc J&J was buying from them. The owners of the Val Chisone mine near Turin, Italy were persuaded by J&J to stop distributing the English version of the booklet so Johnson and Johnson could rewrite it. J&J’s Waldstreicher was asked about the rewritten booklet, from which all references to asbestos had been removed. She had never seen it.

Waldstreicher was also asked about whether Johnson & Johnson should have warned consumers:

“Would you agree that if asbestos is in the product, you all ought to be warning people?’’ [the plaintiff’s attorney] asked. At first, Waldstreicher responded that it was a “hypothetical question.” Eventually, she conceded.

“I would like to be warned before I were around any cancer-causing substance,’’

Johnson and Johnson has never warned consumers of any risk in using its talc powders. The unsealed documents show that instead J&J employees were trained to reassure anyone who asked about asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s powders that asbestos “has never been found and it never will’’.

More than 5,000 lawsuits are pending nationally against Johnson and Johnson for  ovarian cancer caused by talc.

If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer or mesothelioma after exposure to talc, call Thornton Law Firm’s talc lawyers at 888-491-9726 for a free case evaluation, or tell us your story here.  Contact us today for a thorough, fair consideration of your legal claim.

Mesothelioma Victim Receives Record Asbestos Verdict in New England

Call 888-632-0108 for a free consultation with a recognized leader in mesothelioma and asbestos litigation. You can also contact us online to discuss the details of your case.

By: David J. McMorris, Esq.

Published on September 22, 2017

$7.55 Million Awarded to Victim in Case Against Insulation Company

A Superior Court jury in Boston returned a verdict of $7.55 million dollars against New England Insulation, a Canton company who distributed and installed asbestos insulation material until the early 1970’s.  Gerald Sylvestre, a former worker in the Public Service of New Hampshire Merrimack Power Station in Bow NH, developed pleural mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer, in 2015 and is currently undergoing treatment.

“No one should have to go through this illness, and I particularly hate the suffering it has caused my family, especially because it could have been prevented,” said Sylvestre. “My wife and I were very happy with the verdict, but what meant the most was that we got to tell our story and the jury heard it and responded as they did.”

“The jury recognized the devastation this disease creates for families of workers exposed to hazardous materials,” said Sylvestre’s attorney, Andrew Wainwright of Boston’s Thornton Law Firm, “Had New England Insulation shared the knowledge they had of the dangers of asbestos with men working near them and with their products, this all could have been avoided.”

Today’s verdict is the largest award to date in New England, and was the result of a team effort between the Thornton Law Firm and Waters and Kraus, a nationally recognized asbestos trial firm.

“We are grateful for the jury’s verdict fully compensating the Sylvestres for their losses,” said Andrea Marino Landry, Thornton Law Firm’s trial co-counsel. “Gerald Sylvestre and other workers have suffered greatly from New England Insulation’s failure to share with them its knowledge of the dangers of asbestos exposure, which could have prevented this family’s pain and heartbreak.”

Thornton Law Firm was founded in 1978 by Michael Thornton doing groundbreaking work for victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Now the leading injury law firm in Massachusetts and the largest plaintiff law firm in New England, the firm has an experienced team of attorneys representing thousands of clients in a wide variety of plaintiff-side work. The firm has represented asbestos victims in New England for over 40  years and this commitment led Thornton Law Firm to aid in the creation of the Thornton House, which provides housing for mesothelioma and asbestos disease patients and families.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, call Attorney Andrew Wainwright at 888-632-0108 for a free case evaluation, or tell us your story here. All legal claims have short, strictly enforced time deadlines, so contact us immediately if you need legal advice.

CDC: U.S. Mesothelioma Deaths Continue to Rise

Call 888-491-9726 for a free consultation with a recognized leader in mesothelioma and asbestos litigation. You can also contact us online to discuss the details of your case.

By: Andrew S. Wainwright, Esq.

Published on May 11, 2017

Mesothelioma is a type of malignant cancer that affects the thin lining of the body’s internal organs. It has been known for decades that mesothelioma is the direct result of exposure to asbestos. In response, the federal government banned many asbestos-containing products, although even today some asbestos products are still sold legally, and workers are still exposed in older structures that contain asbestos. Sadly, mesothelioma deaths continue to rise across the United States.

More Than 45,000 Mesothelioma Deaths Since 1999

On March 3, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated figures on mesothelioma-related deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2015. “Contrary to past projections,” the CDC said, “the number of malignant mesothelioma deaths has been increasing.” In 1999, there were 2,479 reported mesothelioma deaths. In 2015, there were 2,597–an increase of nearly 5 percent.

Overall there have been more than 45,000 mesothelioma-related deaths since 1999. Nearly 80 percent of these victims were men. About 95 percent were Caucasian.

Not surprisingly, the majority of mesothelioma deaths occurred when the victims were age 55 or older. The CDC noted that the time lapse between initial exposure to asbestos and the onset of malignant mesothelioma is typically 20 to 39 years – and in some cases as long as 71 years. This means workers exposed to asbestos at the age of 25 in 1977 may not be diagnosed with mesothelioma until after they have retired.

But even with modern health and safety rules designed to protect workers, exposure still remains a risk. The CDC said exposure now occurs “predominantly during maintenance operations and remediation of older buildings containing asbestos.” The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains strict standards for removing asbestos from existing buildings. But if individual employers, particularly in the construction industry, fail to abide by these standards, workers may still be exposed. This can also expose family members of such workers, the CDC said, since asbestos fibers on clothing may later be inhaled by other members of the worker’s household.

Do You Need to Speak With a Boston Asbestos & Mesothelioma Attorney?

According to the CDC’s figures, the highest age-adjusted death rates for mesothelioma victims are found in northeastern states, notably Massachusetts and Maine. This underscores the ongoing public health crisis of mesothelioma in and around the Boston area. If you or a family member have been exposed to asbestos and need to speak with a Boston mesothelioma lawyer, contact Thornton Law Firm, LLP, online today or call (888) 491-9726 to schedule a free consultation.

Defective Mask: $32.8M Mesothelioma Verdict


By: Andrew S. Wainwright, Esq.

Published on May 17, 2016

A California jury awarded $32.8 million dollars to a foundry worker and his wife for his developing mesothelioma after breathing asbestos while wearing a defective respirator sold by American Optical Corporation. Bill Tyler was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused only by asbestos, in 2015. The jury award included $10 million in punitive damages, the first time American Optical Corporation has been ordered to pay punitive (punishment) damages.

How was the plaintiff exposed to asbestos?

Bill Tyler, age 62, began working at Foundry Service and Supply in Torrance, California as a 19-year-old, from 1972 until 1992. He wore an American Optical Corporation mask for 17 years, believing it would protect him from breathing asbestos dust generated by foundry operations that included cutting Marinite boards that contained asbestos. However, American Optical Corporation knew that workers used its R2090 mask to protect against asbestos exposure, and knew that it was not designed to protect against asbestos. What they sold was a false sense of security. Tyler and his fellow workers thought they were protected from harm, and they were instead being exposed to harm.

Why didn’t American Optical R2090 respirators protect against asbestos exposure?

The R2090 respirator included a double head strap that to an ordinary consumer seemed to pull the mask tight enough against the face to protect against asbestos inhalation. But the mask was not designed for asbestos protection. It leaked around the edges, and deadly asbestos got in and was inhaled.

In addition, if there is sufficient asbestos in the atmosphere, even a high-quality respirator mask is not enough, by itself, to protect you from asbestos exposure. That’s why today asbestos removal is performed by workers wearing disposable gear over their respirators. This includes a suit, hood, gloves, and shoe covers. Before removing the gear, the worker is sprayed with water mist and all the gear must be removed while the respirator is still on. The entire outfit is sealed in asbestos waste containers before the mask is removed.

What were Tyler’s claims against American Optical?

Tyler sued American Optical for strict product liability, negligence, negligent failure to warn, concealment, and intentional misrepresentation. The jury ruled that American Optical knew its respirator would not protect against asbestos exposure, and hid that fact from Tyler and others who used the R2090 mask.

Is American Optical the only company that made respirators?

No, other companies also made dangerous respirators.  Thornton Law Firm has successfully prosecuted cases over the last 15 years for workers who alleged they wore defective respirators while cutting asbestos, and developed mesothelioma as a result.

Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M Co.) manufactured masks for use in workplaces where asbestos was being used, including the 8500 dust mask and the 8710 disposable respirator. (You’d probably recognize an 8710 – the disposable paper nose cone with a yellow headband and an aluminum piece that you could press to fit your nose.) 3M advertised that those masks would protect workers from dangerous dusts. Like American Optical, the 3M lawsuits allege that the devices did not provide adequate protection against workplace dust and asbestos particles. Both products have since been removed from the market by 3M Co.


Similarly, Mine Safety Appliances Company (MSA) sold its Dustfoe 66 respirators and masks with the promise that they would provide protection from asbestos dust.  The Dustfoe 66 respirators were sold throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s and came in a tin box.  The respirator itself was notable for its triangle-shaped nosepiece.  While advertised that it could protect workers from asbestos, lawsuits allege the MSA Dustfoe 66 respirators did not provide the promised protection, and that MSA was aware of the defects.  Often, these respirators were worn by workers cutting asbestos-containing materials in machine and fabricating shops.

What can I do if I have developed mesothelioma after using a defective mask?

Thornton Law Firm has been fighting for asbestos victims since 1978, including lawsuits against the manufacturers of dangerous and defective masks and respirators. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any asbestos-related disease, count on New England’s leading mesothelioma law firm to get you the full compensation you are entitled to under the law. Call our toll free number 888-632-0108 or tell us your story here. All legal claims have short time limits so call now to protect your legal rights.

Asbestos in Schools: Schools Ignoring Federal Laws

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos
disease, call 1-888-632-0108 for a no-obligation evaluation of your legal rights, or
tell us your story using our online contact form.

By: Andrew S. Wainwright, Esq.

Published on January 5, 2016

Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts released a report sharply critical of schools across the country – including schools right here in Massachusetts – for failing to comply with federal laws meant to safeguard against the hazards presented by airborne asbestos in schools. The report, ‘Failing the Grade: Asbestos in America’s Schools‘, reveals that most schools are not aware of all the asbestos in place in their buildings. As a result, renovations and repairs are conducted without the important safety measures meant to prevent the spread and release of breathable asbestos fibers.

Asbestos in Schools – Safeguarding Students, Teachers, and School Personnel

In March Senator Markey and Senator Boxer from California asked states whether they were in compliance with the 30 year old federal law governing asbestos in schools, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (known as AHERA). Almost half of U.S. schools were built between 1950 and 1969, when asbestos was routinely used as a building material.

Where Can Asbestos Be Found in a School?

Asbestos in schools may be found in the insulation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; as fireproofing on the structure; as ceiling material, either sprayed or tiles; in roofing and floor tiles; in wallboard or plaster walls or ceilings; in soundproofing material; even in chipped paint. As long as the asbestos materials are undisturbed and in good condition, the EPA maintains the risk is minimal and recommends they be left in place. But as older schools require constant maintenance, and often require repairs or updating, work done poorly or by workers unaware that asbestos is present can cause serious exposures.

What Does Federal Law Require of Schools?

AHERA requires that each state monitor asbestos in schools and prevent exposure by:

  • Inspect every school once, then re-inspect every 3 years
  • Develop an asbestos management plan. A copy must be kept at the school
  • Annual notification to parents, teachers and employees re the plan and any abatement planned or completed
  • Designate an asbestos coordinator
  • Periodic surveillance of known/suspected asbestos
  • All inspections and abatement be performed by accredited professionals
  • Asbestos awareness training for custodial/maintenance employees

Serious Asbestos Management Problems Identified In Our Schools

Markey’s report is based on the response of 20 states. More than two-thirds reported having schools that contain asbestos, and most of that asbestos is unabated. Neither the states nor the school districts are complying with AHERA. Only 288 of the 3,690 school districts that have schools with asbestos actually perform periodic inspections of those schools – less than 10%. Similarly, the report found that “States do not appear to be systematically monitoring, investigating or addressing asbestos hazards in schools.”

What Can You Do?

Parents, teachers or employees should ask for an annual asbestos statement if you are not receiving one. Ask to see the school’s asbestos management plan. Ask if your child’s school is periodically inspected for asbestos. If you see deteriorating materials in your school, report it to the designated asbestos coordinator. States are required to keep your children safe, but the Markey report shows that states are failing to do so.

Thornton Law Firm is Massachusetts’ first, most successful, and most respected team of mesothelioma lawyers. We have had the great privilege of representing injured asbestos victims in mesothelioma and asbestos cases since 1978. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, call on our experienced, compassionate mesothelioma lawyers for a free, no obligation consultation by calling 1-888-632-0108 or by telling us your story online. Like all legal claims, asbestos claims have short time limits. Do not delay seeking advice.

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