Abandoned homes have been a problem in US major cities for a while. One reason that abandoned buildings are so dangerous and toxic is that some contain asbestos. In Detroit in particular this is a big problem. Detroit has at least 70,000 abandoned buildings and 31,000 abandoned homes, some of which are homes in residential areas where people live. 70.7% of the homes in the city are occupied while the other 29.3% of the homes in Detroit are vacant. Because abandoned buildings affect the wellbeing of residents in the city, the City of Detroit has made an ambitious plan to demolish many upon many of these structures. Around 18,000 structures have been demolished between 2014 and 2019.

Before the construction workers can demolish a home with asbestos they are required to take out the asbestos before they can demolish the home. In some cases, there is so much asbestos in the home, that it is dangerous for the workers to remove it before demolition of the house. In these cases, the workers use water to contain the amount of asbestos going into the air and becoming airborne.  However, those cases make up a small percentage of homes that are being demolished.

Some researchers from the University of Michigan did a test. Although much more research must be done on the subject, they believe their findings could help out many major cities in the costly business of demolition.  

First the researchers looked at the results of asbestos inspection reports on the homes that were demolished and concluded that virtually every house that had been demolished contained asbestos.

Second the researchers did two air sampling tests. The first one was cheap, unreliable and not very good. The second one was more advanced with better and more reliable results.

They took a hundred and one tests from twenty-five homes that were emergency demolitions. From a hundred tests they only captured two asbestos fibers from two separate dwellings.

This is good news for many other cities in the United States with abandoned buildings. The research team is hoping that their findings not only help the City of Detroit but also other cities as well. There are over 100,000,000 abandoned buildings across the United States.

“From that, we’re confident that these emergency demolitions, more likely than not, have some asbestos, the overarching concern, of course, is whether asbestos is being released into the air when they’re tearing these buildings down.” said Rick Neitzel, associate professor of environmental health sciences at the U-M School of Public Health.

This new research will hopefully make the demolition process of the buildings in Detroit easier and less expensive. This will also hopefully help the residents of Detroit have better health and wellbeing.

“Given the huge number of abandoned homes in Detroit, moving to the system currently being used for emergency demolitions would have a dramatic impact on the city’s demolition program” said Rick Neitzel, he also believes the research can help other cities facing the problem of many abandoned buildings. 

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