I am a rent-stabilized tenant living in an apartment building that is being converted from rentals to condos. Asbestos is being removed from several units. (Warning signs have been posted on the doors.) Fumes leak into the hall outside my unit. Am I safe?
Upper East Side, Manhattan
Asbestos fibers are odorless, tasteless and generally invisible to the naked eye. Asbestos is also a well-known carcinogen and a federally regulated hazardous substance. Areas where asbestos is being removed are supposed to be maintained under negative pressure to keep dust and asbestos fibers from being released into other spaces, according to Peter E. Varsalona, a principal of RAND Engineering and Architecture.
The fumes you are noticing could contain harmful substances, including asbestos, but without having the area professionally inspected, one cannot be certain. “Whatever the tenant is discerning, it’s a product of the ongoing demolition work in the area.” Mr. Varsalona said, adding that the fumes might or might not contain asbestos fibers.
An independent firm is supposed to monitor the air inside and outside the work area. If you are concerned about your safety or suspect the work is being done improperly, report the situation to your landlord. Also, call 311 to report the condition to the Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees asbestos abatement and can send out an inspector to assess the situation.