Sci Total Environ. 2020 Jun 20;722:137891. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137891. Epub 2020 Mar 21.
Many cities are revitalizing their urban cores through the demolition of abandoned residential dwellings (ARDs). However, data regarding the emissions of asbestos during such an operation are sparse. We measured airborne asbestos emissions from emergency demolitions (demolitions on structures deemed too dangerous to enter and remove asbestos) of ARDs in Detroit. High-flow air sampling was conducted during ARD demolitions. Air samples were analyzed using Phased Contrast Microscopy (PCM), and a subset using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM). One hundred and one air samples were collected on 25 emergency demolitions. Fifty-four of the 101 PCM samples (53%) exceeded the limit of detection (LOD). However, only 2 of 46 TEM samples (4%) exceeded the LOD for asbestos; these latter samples were from two different demolitions and each contained a single chrysotile asbestos fiber. Using conservative exposure assumptions and commonly-accepted risk estimation formulae, we estimated the lifetime risk of mesothelioma and lung cancer combined to be less than one case per one million people. Emissions of airborne asbestos during emergency (unabated) ARD demolition operations appear to be negligible. As a result, the associated health risk for asbestos-related disease is also negligible. Reconsideration of current regulatory mandates for asbestos abatement in ARDs may be warranted.