July 18, 2007 – A steam pipe explosion near Grand Central Terminal, in New York City, caused at least one death and many serious injuries. The explosion also raised concerns about possible asbestos exposure as asbestos could have been released into the air when the steam pipe exploded.
ON JULY 18, 2007, A STEAM PIPE EXPLOSION NEAR GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL, IN NEW YORK CITY, CAUSED AT LEAST ONE DEATH AND MANY SERIOUS INJURIES. THE EXPLOSION ALSO RAISED CONCERNS ABOUT POSSIBLE ASBESTOS EXPOSURE AS ASBESTOS COULD HAVE BEEN RELEASED INTO THE AIR WHEN THE STEAM PIPE EXPLODED.
Mesothelioma lawyer Robert I. Komitor, together with other asbestos lawyers at Levy Konigsberg LLP who followed the situation around the explosion, observed that, “Historically, most steam pipes were insulated with asbestos. Although asbestos insulation has been replaced with non-asbestos substitutes in some of the steam pipes, in New York City, many other pipes continue to be covered in asbestos.”
Shortly after the explosion, New York City officials announced that asbestos testing would be conducted to determine whether the air surrounding the steam pipe explosion had become contaminated with asbestos.
The New York Times reported that Michael S. Clendenin, a spokesman for Con Edison, which maintains the pipes beneath the city said, “We always assume there’s asbestos in a steam pipe… so we are treating these materials sent up by the rupture, including piping as if asbestos were in them.”
Asbestos testing is conducted by pulling a calibrated volume of air through filtering equipment. The sample obtained by the filter is then examined under a microscope for the presence of asbestos. The Environmental Protection Agency publishes procedures for how to determine whether asbestos has compromised air quality.
One of the nation’s leading asbestos lawyers, Jerome H. Block of Levy Konigsberg LLP stated, “The key issue is finding out if the steam pipe that burst was covered in asbestos. If it was, then the airborne dust and debris from that pipe would have contained asbestos.”
A material such as a pipe covering can be tested for asbestos through a “bulk sampling”, which involves taking a small piece of the material and analyzing it under a polarized light microscope.
Asbestos testing is typically performed by scientists trained in industrial hygiene or material sciences.
Worried about the possibility of asbestos exposure, New York City health experts advised that people in the vicinity of the explosion discard their clothes and bathe carefully.
Asbestos is a known human carcinogen, and exposure to it is known to cause mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer, and asbestosis. Scientists have not identified any safe level of asbestos exposure. Asbestos has been used not only in steam pipe covering, but also in many other industrial and home products, including gaskets, packing, cable, joint compounds, brake linings, clutch facings, and equipment, such as boilers and pumps.
Attorneys Robert Komitor and Jerome Block were recently featured in New York Magazine as two of “New York Area’s Best Lawyers” in recognition of their work as asbestos lawyers in the New York metropolitan area.
For more information, please contact Levy Konigsberg LLP at (800) 315-3806 or 1-800-MESO-LAW (1-800-637-6529), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.