Friday, March 4, 2011

Apartment Update: Asbestos Cleaning

Another update on what's going on with our old apartment, which still has most of our stuff...

The short version of the story is that the apartment building is going to pay to have the apartment cleaned and to send all of the clothes and other soft items to get professionally cleaned to remove asbestos. They're also going to pick up the clothes that they had given us from our apartment earlier and have those professionally cleaned as well. So we'll be completely without our wardrobe for a while again (We're planning to do a mini-shopping spree for Jeff, who needs clothes that fit him anyway, and Stephanie offered to lend me a few things to get me through the cleaning time.) But by late March we should have all of our clothes (from both apartments) back. They're wiping down things with hard surfaces to clean them, though it's not clear what's going to happen to mixed-items, like our old futon or suitcases - or what it means for things like boxes of papers. So still a few mysteries to find out...

And here's the long version of the story:

Ten days ago, we got this email from the apartment management:

Our abatement/cleaning process began today, Tuesday, February 22nd.  This process will also include some repairs/replacements of ceilings as deemed necessary to your apartment home. We expect that the repairs will take approximately two and one-half weeks to complete.  Once the abatement has been completed, your apartment will be cleaned  and another clearance test will be performed to ensure that all contamination has been eliminated.  This process will include cleaning all hard surfaces, framed pictures, etc.  Soft materials will be double bagged in clear plastic and left inside your apartment.  You will be notified when this process has been completed. We anticipate that it will be on or before  March 18th.  You will be advised of the date you may access your apartment.  In the event that you do not want to keep anything a release must be signed authorizing us to dispose of these items on your behalf. Those items which will be bagged are contaminated, therefore all of these items must be cleaned by a dry cleaners who specializes in fire restoration and asbestos removal in clothing and other soft items.

For those of you who have Apartment Renter’s Insurance you will be advised of when you may contact your agent(s) and advise them of our anticipated  access date so that they can schedule their  visit to your apartment. They should contact me by email to obtain access.

For those of you who do not have Apartment Renter’s Insurance, it has been decided that Management will absorb the cleaning costs for your clothing.  We have located a qualified dry cleaners to handle this cleaning process.

Thank you for your patience in this matter. 

Jeff and I were a little worried about what this meant for the things that Niyi had gotten out of our apartment shortly after the fire (remember that list of 10 things?). So we investigated. Here's some of what Jeff found (this was an email to his parents - who are both doctors - asking their opinion:

One thing that Mariel and I are concerned about is that they deem that this is enough asbestos that all of our stuff is being bagged and treated as hazardous, while we just took all our other stuff. 
Then, we washed whatever clothing from there with whatever new clothing that we have, so everything might be contaminated.  We were thinking that we'd ask them to clean all the stuff that we have too.  I wanted to get you guys' ideas on how dangerous you think this is for us.

I was trying to figure this out online.  This study:  makes me think it's not horrible.  Occupational risks like cleaning people's contaminated clothes seem to increase your chances of mesothelioma by like a factor of 5.  I feel like wearing some of these contaminated clothes for a while is probably a bit lower risk than that.  Also, I feel like our baseline chances of mesothelioma are very low, so a 5x increase might be fairly minor.  The risk of mesothelioma is like 15/million/year in the US, but that includes still a lot of people who were exposed before asbestos stopped being used in many things, and presumably a lot of people who have higher occupational exposure than we do.  And even at 15/million/year, over 30 years that's the same risk as driving 50,000 miles.  So it's a risk but not a super giant one.

But we would like your opinion about the risks here: are we underestimating them?  Are there other important diseases that we'd get?

Jeff's Mom and Dad wrote back and said they think there is probably not much need to worry, but they'd recommend either professionally cleaning or throwing away the things we got out of old apartment before, just to have peace of mind. Here's what Jeff's Mom said:

I basically agree with your risk assessment (i.e., basically no risk up to now).  My recommendation is: For permanent peace of mind, clean/ditch everything.  Here are specific thoughts.

When they talk about mesothelioma from washing contaminated clothes, they are talking about wives of men with serious chronic (ongoing) exposure to asbestosis. Those guys came home with newly (and seriously) contaminated work clothes every day for years. 

You washed your washable clothes several times before wearing them, which can only help, so I wouldn’t worry about exposure up to now. That said, if there is still a small amount of asbestos on them, there is still the chance of continuing exposure, so for peace of mind I suggest sending favorites to the expensive cleaners and ditching the rest.  This eliminates any future exposure, if asbestos fibers are still on them.  Also, only the expensive cleaners will get the smoke smell out of nonwashables.

So then we wrote this email to the apartment management:

Thanks for the update!

Shortly after the fire, Niyi brought us some of our clothing and other belongings from the apartment.  We have been using and living with these things since the fire.  We appreciated the gesture at the time, but now that we know that the items in our apartment are contaminated with asbestos and see the measures that are being taken to deal with it, we are concerned.  We would like to return the clothing and other items that were removed from the apartment to be cleaned along with the other things that are still in our apartment.

Please let us know the best way to get these items to you, and when you expect they could be cleaned and returned. Also, we would appreciate it if you could ask the asbestos experts if there is any danger that our new apartment has been contaminated due to the exposure to these un-cleaned items from our old apartment.

And we got this response:
Good Morning: I receive confirmation that you may put the soft items (clothes, pillows,) etc in a clear plastic bag and give them to Carlos.  He will then place them in your old apartment for pickup and cleaning along with any other items.  I will see if we can get you the bags today and place them inside your current apartment.  We need to have them back as soon as possible as I will have to tell the cleaning company how many bags we have.  Thank you.

So now that's the plan. She also gave us the phone number of the environmentalist/ cleaner that they're working with, so we can give him a call and discuss any concerns with him. So that will be my next update.


Marcus Wheeler said...

There are certain products that are likely to have asbestos particulary the popcorn ceilings, and some of the floorings and what we would say is just be careful. Still being careful not only when your buying or renting, but say your in a home already and you wanna remodel, you wanna tear out the kitchen,may be changed the bath room.

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