Kim Grenfell’s father was one of those people who could build anything he needed and fix everything else. He worked as a skilled laborer and as a plumber or “steam fitter” for 37 years in the Portland Public City School District. When Kim’s father was diagnosed in 2010 with Asbestosis she and her family were stunned. Asbestosis is a chronic disease characterized by scarring in the lungs, which leads to long-term breathing complications and is caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos.
Growing up Kim recalls watching her father work on several home remodeling projects. She adored the fulfillment he got from completing projects around the house. However, like many maintenance techs, builders, and property owners today, Kim’s father did not fully recognize that certain building materials may have asbestos and when disturbed can release dust or fibers that are hazardous to breathe in. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there is no safe level of exposure when working with asbestos. Tragically, like Kim’s father, thousands of workers in a variety of industries have been affected by deadly asbestos-related diseases – sometimes even their families through secondhand exposure.
In Kim’s father’s case, prior to the 1970s asbestos was used for insulating pipes and some piping was made of asbestos. In addition, the pumps and valves in the schools piping systems used asbestos gaskets, rope packing, turbines, tanks, and other equipment tied in with piping systems.
Another startling fact about being exposed to asbestos is that symptoms commonly do not occur for decades after the exposure. For example, Kim’s father had been exposed to asbestos beginning in 1958 through the early 2000s but he did not show symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath until about 2010. It was not long after that when her father’s ability to breath became worse. He decided to undergo an extensive surgery where doctors scraped the lining in his lungs to help improve his lung capacity. This procedure did help improve his quality of life for a few more years, but sadly in 2017 Kim’s father lost his fight to this dreadful disease.
Symptoms of asbestos exposure mimic that of other respiratory illnesses – allergies, sinus problems, and colds – making it difficult to diagnose. Common symptoms are tightness in the chest, persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, weight loss, and chest pain.
Since 2016, Kim has worked for Certified Indoor Environmental which specializes in asbestos testing, abatement, and mold remediation. She is dedicated to educating others about the risks of working with potential hazards and what the proper steps are to avoid being exposed to asbestos. “Employers should be advocating to ensure their workers are not putting themselves at risk of exposure to asbestos, because the consequences are not worth it” says Kim, “Unfortunately, some companies are driven by costs and when they don’t enforce the safety laws they put their employees and tenants in harm’s way.” Kim has seen firsthand the longtime pain and suffering her father endured from asbestos exposure, “Not being able to breath is a horrible way to die. If you suspect the material could have asbestos, call a professional to test it. Asbestos kills people.”
For the safety of your business or property and to protect the health of your occupants, it is imperative to hire a professional to test the building materials to confirm if asbestos is present. If the test results are positive, an inspector can facilitate a safe plan to have the asbestos material repaired or removed, then disposed of properly. Certified Indoor Environmental has AHERA (Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act) building inspectors that are trained and licensed to help ensure your property is safe for all occupants during and after abatement. Learn more about our company and our services here.
Kim Grenfell’s story is one of many stories out there where occupational related diseases have caused families to lose a loved one. It is estimated that 90,000 people die from asbestos-related diseases globally each year and about 1.3 million U.S. workers in construction and general industry are at risk of exposure today. It is important to take time to learn about the risks involving building materials that may have asbestos. Sanding, scraping, cutting, removing, repairing, or any form of disturbing asbestos-containing materials is not recommended. Please call Certified Indoor Environmental for asbestos sample testing and asbestos abatement.
Kim shares more about her personal story and safety tips in this exclusive video interview. Watch here now.
CIE | Author – Lynette Schmidt, Business Development Manager, July 14, 2020