For those living in the state of Illinois, asbestos is a health issue of particular concern. This is because Illinois ranks seventh among the 50 U.S. states for resident deaths from asbestos-related conditions like mesothelioma cancer. The following sections will explore the reasons behind that statistic, as well as what actions the state government is taking to improve it.
Why So Many Illinois Asbestos Deaths?
Home to the nation’s third-largest city—Chicago—Illinois is generally viewed as a modest mid-western state with major industries of agriculture, manufacturing, and coal, among others.
It is also home to processing facilities that have received more than 300,000 tons of asbestos-tainted waste materials.
The former home of the now-defunct Johns-Manville Corporation—in Waukegan, Ill.—is one notable example of a hazardous waste disposal site (commonly called a ‘superfund’) that is on the Environmental Protection Agencies watch-list. EPA testing done on samples from the 300 acres of land and its immediate vicinities revealed significant levels of airborne asbestos, determined to be a “significant threat to public health.” Additionally, onsite groundwater was shown to have such high-level asbestos contamination that it failed to meet the minimum standards outlined by the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act.
The EPA’s list of other Illinois-based ‘clean-up sites’—many of which contain asbestos contamination—is considerably long, but results of mandated safety measures have been consistently reported effective.
The State of Illinois Against Asbestos: Steps Towards a Safer Tomorrow
The state government of Illinois has been active in taking steps towards ensuring resident safety by protecting them from potentially deadly asbestos exposure.
The state-run Illinois Asbestos Unit is operated through the EPA and tasked with maintaining federal standards during asbestos removal efforts, including renovations or demolitions of buildings constructed from asbestos materials.
On a more localized level, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity operates an Environmental Assistance Program for small businesses that provides owners with information and guidance about hazardous air pollutants like asbestos. In addition to hosting workshops and training opportunities on the safe handling of toxic materials, the program also connects small business owners with licensed environmental consultants who can provide individualized safety guidance.
Illinois Asbestos Abatement: Environmental Initiative and Job Generator
In accordance with statewide safety initiatives, the Illinois state government actively promotes asbestos abatement projects by conducting routine inspections at schools undergoing removal projects and by maintaining a database of licensed abatement professionals. The state’s Division of Public Health also establishes training standards and licensing requirements for those professionals and requires all holders of an Asbestos Abatement License to apply for renewals on an annual basis.
Currently, the state reports more than ten thousand licensees in six different professional areas—each with its own distinct licensing requirements. Additionally, separate licenses are mandatory for workers and contractors that participate in abatement projects on either public or commercial sites.
The professional disciplines distinguished for individual licensure by the state of Illinois include:-Supervisors-Project Managers-Air Sampling Professionals-Project Designers-Inspectors-Management Planners