Michigan Man Receives $250,000 Asbestos Settlement

A Michigan man has received a $250,000 settlement from his former employer after the man alleged that he was fired because he blew the whistle on improper handling of asbestos, reports David Harris for the Flint Journal. The man, Ray Barker II, worked for the Genesee County Community Action Recourse Department for six months in 2009, performing weatherization work on doors, windows, and insulation in as many as 75 homes, says the journal.  According the article, Barker claims that “he repeatedly tried to alert his superiors at GCCARD that the equipment it was using to pump in installation [sic] was powerful enough to create a dust cloud containing asbestos that spread throughout the house.” Asbestos fibers are normally not harmful when inert, but when released into the air during removal or renovation, they can be breathed into the lungs where they can cause a multitude of health problems, including lung scarring, asbestosis, and a deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma.  Even a small amount of asbestos exposure can cause this disease, which can lie dormant for 20 to 50 years before the first symptoms appear. According to the story, Barker and fellow workers were required to handle vermiculite, a mineral that is often found in deposits near asbestos and can be contaminated during the mining process.  Both vermiculite and asbestos were widely used in insulation and other construction materials as a flame retardant until their use was restricted for health reasons in the late 1970s. Though GCCARD reached a settlement with Barker, the article quotes the company’s lawyer as stating that “Our position was Mr. Barker was terminated for just reasons.  His claims did not have any merit.”  According to the article, the executive director previously stated that the allegations were untrue and claimed Barker was fired for being “uncoachable” but declined to comment further. While Barker is reportedly pleased with the settlement, he “believes GCCARD management is untrained when it comes to asbestos,” the story says.  Harris reports that Michigan state OSHA protocol requires all work on a structure to halt if any of the materials are suspected of containing as little as 1% asbestos.  The material must then be tested for the presence of the deadly mineral. Though the director of GCCARD has claimed that this protocol is followed, Barker explained that “There’s people being exposed and they deserve to know about it,” the Journal reports. References: David Harris. (January 1, 2011) “Former GCCARD employee receives $250K in whistle-blower lawsuit.” Retrieved on January 5, 2011 from Michigan Live. Previous: Change to California Law Benefits Mesothelioma Plaintiffs Next: New Peritoneal Mesothelioma Treatment CRS/HIPEC Shows Improved Survival Rates