As the Oklahoma communities devastated by last week’s monster tornado begin to clean up and rebuild, safety experts are urging residents and volunteers to watch out for dangers hidden in the debris. It’s not just the live wires, lead dust, and shards of glass that pose a serious health risk – there is also a less obvious hazard that can cause injury and death: asbestos.
Hidden inside some building materials from decades past, asbestos fibers and dust were likely torn loose by the tornado and may now lie exposed in places where they can be easily inhaled by homeowners and others cleaning up contaminated debris. Asbestos is a known human carcinogen with no safe level of exposure, according to the National Cancer Institute. Even short periods of exposure could potentially cause devastating health problems in 10-40 years, the latency period of some of the asbestos cancers such as mesothelioma.
While most of the concern regarding exposure involves houses and buildings built during the decades of peak asbestos use (1940s – 1970s), asbestos could potentially be in any building. This is because this deadly mineral has never been banned in the United States. As reported in The Huffington Post, Moore, Oklahoma, the community hit hardest by last week’s destructive twister, saw rapid growth in the 1960s and 1970s.
In Joplin, Missouri, where a massive tornado ripped through the town just two years earlier, some 2,600 tons of asbestos were eventually collected from the storm debris, according to The Huffington Post.
For anyone involved in the cleanup, the message is clear: protect yourself.
If there is a dust hazard, whether there’s asbestos or not, you should be taking precautions, Dr. Mark Keim told The Huffington Post. Keim is an emergency physician focusing on environmental health preparedness at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During cleanups, take frequent breaks, and wash your hands before eating or touching your mouth, he said.
If you have been exposed to asbestos and have developed mesothelioma as a result, contact Sokolove Law today for a free case consultation to see if a mesothelioma lawyer can help you.