Asbestos and Hurricanes
In September of 2005, the Gulf region was ravaged by a reality perhaps none of us could comprehend. Hurricane Katrina had been sitting in the Caribbean for days, building strength and growing in size. After the winds died down, and swell retreated out into the ocean, what was left was one of the costliest and most deadly natural disasters in the history of our country. In all, 1,836 people lost their lives in Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding of the region. While the death toll is certainly the most striking aspect of this disaster, leaving many to question how something like this could possibly happen in our country, the $81.6 billion in damages across four states was perhaps equally as stunning.
As we have seen throughout the history of hurricane devastation, there will be many who are affected by initial components of the hurricane such as the fierce winds and enormously powerful ocean swell, which can redraw the coastlines as we know them. There are however, an inestimable amount of people who will be affected in the aftermath of hurricanes. We saw evidence of this in this generation in the early 1990's when Hurricane Andrew left its mark on the South of Florida and we surely see it again in the aftermath of Katrina. One of the deadliest aspects in the aftermath of hurricane is the exposure of deadly toxins into the air and water. One of the more prevalent toxins is that of asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that was used extensively up until its dangers became truly evident in the last quarter century. It was used in nearly all aspects of home and building construction because of its fire-retardant and insulation qualities. When left undisturbed, asbestos is generally safe because the particles need to be released into the air to become "friable," or potentially harmful to humans. Those exposed to asbestos may be at risk for developing mesothelioma. This is a disease that has no cure and as a result, the life expectancy for those diagnosed with mesothelioma is generally short. For treatment information please view our directory of mesothelioma cancer clinics or our mesothelioma treatment guide.
The raw power of a hurricane has the ability to disturb the previously stable asbestos particles that are present in roofing, siding, or plumbing and release them into the air, where they can be most harmful. Often, the effects of the harmful asbestos particles will not affect those whose homes and buildings they have been released from but will affect those returning to the area in the aftermath, including first responders and clean up efforts.
Unfortunately, there is nothing in the human capacity that can stop the onslaught of a hurricane, there are however measures that can be taken to assure limited exposure to asbestos in the aftermath of such devastation. In hurricane-prone areas of the Southeastern U.S. and Gulf region, homeowners should be sensitive to the type of materials are being used in their home's construction. An avoidance or removal of asbestos containing materials would best suit the recovery efforts of your neighborhood and keep your home safer after minor weather damages. If unfortunately your home is damaged during a storm such as a hurricane and you have not take these precautions, is important not to approach the site until the materials have been deemed safe, and even then with appropriate protective equipment. These precautions could mean the difference between the inhalation of dangerous toxins such as asbestos. Clean-up in areas where asbestos or other toxins are found should be performed only by professions trained in this field.