Hurricane Harvey could create asbestos risk during clean up

28 Aug 2017 by under News
harvey tmo 04aug05 100x100 Hurricane Harvey could create asbestos risk during clean up

Credit: NASA

As , Texas, area residents seek shelter from flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm at landfall Friday night, they face weeks, months and even years of rebuilding — of trying to restore the havoc nature caused. In the process of rebuilding or demolishing or sanitizing, residents will likely face clean-up threats  through exposure to toxic chemicals and building materials, including , as MyMeso has previously reported.

Asbestos is a group of silicate minerals once used in a variety of building materials, such as insulation, pipe wrap and ceiling tiles, for its heat resistance. It is now linked to the development of cancers, including mesothelioma, which can affect the lining of the heart, lungs or abdomen. Though it may take decades to manifest, the disease is usually responsible for the deaths of those diagnosed within a year of receiving the news. Structures predating 1975 are most likely to contain the human carcinogen.

Though it is not considered a health threat when left in place, asbestos that becomes airborne can be inhaled or ingested and become lodged in the lining of internal organs, which leads to inflammation and can cause cellular changes that lead to the development of cancer. Natural disasters prove an especially difficult circumstance because blighted structures are usually structurally unsound and need to be demolished for safety reasons, though demolition could pose a health hazard if the building contains asbestos.

“Federal asbestos regulations do not apply to the demolition of structurally unsound buildings by private individuals who contract directly with the demolition contractor for the demolition of a residential building they own having four or fewer units. However, EPA strongly recommends, for health reasons, that anyone conducting demolition activities follow this guidance,” the Environmental Protection Agency wrote as part of its response to dealing with debris and damaged buildings following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  The agency recommends all workers use equipment specifically designed to protect from asbestos exposure and at least one person on site be trained in asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants regulations.

 

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