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Asbestos & Mesothelioma

History of Co-op City

Located in the Bronx borough of New York, at the intersection of Interstate 95 and the Hutchinson River Parkway, Co-op City is the largest single residential development in the United States.. Co-op City was opened in 1969 and then completed in 1971. It now contains 15,372 residential units, 35 high rise buildings and 7 clusters of townhouses. Co-op City is home to over 50,000 people. Most of these residents are middle-income and from mixed backgrounds creating a diverse environment. In recent years there has been a surge in Russian immigrants who now reside in Co-op City. However, the complex is in a dire financial situation and in desperate need of repairs. There are structural problems with many buildings and many of them are in need of renovations. The repair bill, once finished, will likely top $500 million.

All of the buildings in Co-op City get their steam, heat, and electricity through a power plant that is located within the complex at 98 Co-op City Boulevard. The Co-op city power plant opened in 1968, just prior to the opening of the first residential units. The power plant contains three large scale Riley Stoker Boilers and an immense system of pipes that transport energy to the other buildings.

Asbestos Products Used at Co-op City

Asbestos was a cheap mineral commonly used for insulation and fire-proofing throughout the twentieth century. It was not until the mid 1970s that the health problems associated with the product became known. Co-op City was constructed during the final decade of widespread asbestos usage. Asbestos was often mixed with other compounds to create strong, fire-proof tiles that were used during construction projects. The extent of asbestos usage in the residential buildings in Co-op City is unknown, but there are potential risks now because of the proposed renovations. The workers and residents will have to take precautions to protect themselves from possible exposure to hazardous asbestos dust.

The main concentration of asbestos in Co-op city was at the power plant. During the time of construction, power plants in New York, and across the country, utilized asbestos as insulation for boilers and piping systems, thus creating a dangerous work environment. Asbestos tile and paper were also used to create "fire-proof" environments in the boiler-rooms. Fireproof asbestos spray was also applied to certain areas in the power plants.

Many employees who never worked directly with asbestos products were still at risk because it was present throughout the facility. As asbestos insulation was applied, maintained and repaired, dust particles were often released into in the air. These particles could have been inhaled by anyone. The excessive amount of building works, repairs, and maintenance that occurred in the Co-op City power plant put every employee at risk.

Sometimes asbestos products would need to be altered and fitted to specific projects due to size limitations. Asbestos paper would need to be cut, and the pipe insulation and filler products often needed to be sanded down depending on the situation, throwing asbestos dust into the air. Gaskets were either made with asbestos, or made out of asbestos. Since it is difficult to create a perfect gasket, a worker would have to grind it or sand it down, getting more asbestos dust in the air.

Co-op City Workers At Risk to Develop Mesothelioma

Strong evidence was uncovered by the mid 1970's regarding the dangers associated with prolonged asbestos exosure. Many men wo had worked with asbestos for extended periods of time at Co-op City may be at risk to develop asbestos related diseases. The asbestos related diseases most commonly associated with asbestos exposure include mesothelioma, asbestos related lung cancer and asbestosis. People who had heavy amounts of asbestos exposure from Co-op city should be monitored periodically by their doctors.

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