In Mansfield, Louisiana, there is great fear that there is asbestos contamination from a historic building that was torn down, covering the downtown of Mansfield in dust. Whether or not that dust contained asbestos is still a big question. The building that was torn down was the First Baptist Church, and it was built in 1911. The church has been vacant for many years, even after it was bought in 1982 by the Calhoun Family.
The property was renovated in 1994, “It was apartments,” Reimer Calhoun said. “Thirtyish apartments.” The state fire marshal’s office declared that the building was unsafe in 2011 and the buildings door were permanently closed. This last summer, the building was one of three that were demolished.
The heat and dust caused an unbearable mess for all of the neighbors, “We would have dust that would blow over to my porch and the bushes and stuff,” Williamson, a local business owner said.
Another shop owner, Elsa Mims said, “It was mainly the dust that was bothering us. There was just so much dust out there and we were changing filters three times a week.”
After the people had reached their limit with the dust and the mess, they called in the Department of Environmental Quality. Greg Langley of the DEQ responded to these complaints in September. A notice of deficiency was issued and the DEQ tested the property for asbestos and the October 8th results came back positive.
Dr. Samer Nachawati, a Pulmonologist at Willis-Knighton, said that asbestos, “Can also lead to certain types of cancer. Mesothelioma is the most associated cancer with asbestos.”
Calhoun was asked why an inspection was not completed prior to construction and he responded that he did not know.
The contractor for the project, Scott Shelton, declined to be interviewed, but did state over the phone that asbestos had only been found in three places and that only two areas needed to be abated. This information was different than the reports from Langley at DEQ, whose department found asbestos in 8 places. Langley shut down the work they were doing until all of the asbestos could be removed safely from the property.
Dr. Nachawati said that he does not think there is a very big risk for any local business owner getting sick from the traveling dust, but also said the risk would be the greatest for the workers who were in direct contact with it. The effects of asbestos inhalation are not immediate and can actually take up to 40 years to develop.
“You can see the effects of asbestos 10 years, 20 years, 30 years up to 40 years actually down the line,” Dr. Nachawati said.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the mesothelial tissue that is associated with asbestos exposure. The symptoms of this type of cancer include chest pain, a cough and shortness of breath, but since the latency period is so long, people may not know they have the illness for up to 40 years.
The town of Mansfield is just hoping that the project can now be finished correctly and safely from this point forward.