Asbestos in New York City

The steam pipe that exploded in New York City in the middle of July has caused many problems. Asbestos coating the pipe was sent into the air, worrying residents, employees, and city goers in the area. Forty-nine buildings had to be evacuated and people from 250 residential units had to be displaced to avoid the contamination.

While people were displaced from the area, the contaminated buildings were washed. The buildings were also inspected and monitored after the initial explosion to make sure asbestos was properly removed. Officials were also worried that asbestos could have entered buildings through air conditioning systems, so they monitored and tested the air inside as well.

Even though asbestos has been known to be a dangerous carcinogen since the 1940s, it was used to insulate and fireproof different materials, including the vast steam pipe network under New York City. It is an efficient and cheap material that is able to withstand high temperatures, which made it an easy choice to protect the underground pipes.

Although asbestos is known to cause cancer, it has not been removed and replaced with other materials because when it is underground and undisturbed, the fibers are not a risk to people. The real danger is when the fibers become airborne and inhaled. The microscopic fibers become lodged in a person’s lungs, causing mesothelioma and lung cancer.

The other reason why asbestos has not been replaced with a safer alternative is the cost and time it would take for all the asbestos to be removed. When a large portion of the city has asbestos underneath the streets it is not feasible to completely remove the substance from underground. Streets would need to be torn up and activities above ground would come to a standstill.

For now, people are going to have to live with the large amounts of asbestos underneath New York City. Hopefully an event like this will not happen again and the infrastructure of the city will be maintained properly.

If you have been exposed to asbestos and contracted mesothelioma or lung cancer, you may be entitled to file a claim. Companies knew the dangers, but continued to let their employees work with the carcinogenic fibers. Call 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form to speak to one of our attorneys and learn your options.


Jonathan Wolfe, “New York Today: Asbestos Cleanup Continues” New York Times (July 23, 2018). [Link]

Matthew Haag and Melissa Gomez, “Asbestos Confirmed in Steam Pipe That Exploded in Manhattan” New York Times (July 19, 2018). [Link]


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