Asbestos a threat in cleaning up natural disasters

20 Jun 2017 by under News

173424 5day cone no line and wind 100x100 Asbestos a threat in cleaning up natural disastersFor the U.S. Gulf Coast, hurricane season began June 1, and not yet a month in, Tropical Storm Cindy is expected to make landfall at the end of the week. Though Cindy will likely not cause the devastating effects of a high-category hurricane, it’s important to note that cleaning up after a tropical storm or hurricane can potentially cause exposure to toxic chemicals and building materials, including .

“Federal asbestos regulations do not apply to the of structurally unsound buildings by private individuals who contract directly with the contractor for the of a residential building they own having four or fewer units. However, EPA strongly recommends, for health reasons, that anyone conducting activities follow this guidance,” the EPA wrote as part of its response to dealing with debris and damaged buildings following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Asbestos is a group of silicate minerals that is now a known carcinogen. It used to be used in a variety of construction materials due to its heat resistance and flexibility. However, if asbestos fibers become airborne when material containing it is damaged or moved, it becomes a serious human health hazard. It can lead to a variety of health issues, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, which is usually deadly within two years of diagnosis.

The EPA warns that structures built before 1975 are most likely to contain asbestos.  “In particular, large structures built before 1975 typically contain asbestos pipe wrap, siding, ceiling tiles, and other building materials high in asbestos content,” the organization stated in its Katrina recommendations. If any asbestos-containing material is damaged during a storm, it can add to the devastation of a natural disaster — just likely decades down the road due to asbestos having a long latency period.

To prevent exposure to asbestos during cleanup from a natural disaster, the EPA recommends all workers using equipment specifically designed to protect them from asbestos exposure and at least one person on site be trained in asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants regulations. In addition, it recommends sealing off the materials as much as possible and wetting them down to reduce dust before removal. A notice should also be placed to alert people to stay away from the area due to an asbestos hazard.


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