Nearly an entire block of Georgetown, South Carolina, was left in ruins after a September 2013 fire that devastated this historic, 284-year-old city.
Now the South Carolina Department of Environmental Control (DEC) is adding to the city's woes with its recent announcement that some debris from the Georgetown fire tested positive for asbestos, according to CBS news affiliate WBTW.
Residents living near a city-owned vacant lot where some fire debris had been transferred were alarmed by the potential health hazard posed by asbestos exposure.
"I'm concerned for my health. I'm concerned for the value of our property being down," resident Harriet Hunt told WBTW. However, inspectors said that the asbestos was found only in debris at the original fire site.
Asbestos was present in small amounts in some of the roofing felt and tile materials from the buildings that had been destroyed. Property owners were told not to relocate any more debris until another round of asbestos testing was conducted.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was a popular component of building materials and consumer products before its toxicity became widely known in the 1970s. While not surprising that asbestos would be present in the buildings of this historic neighborhood, it causes significant worries for both residents and workers tasked with site cleanup.
The federal Clean Air Act and South Carolina state laws require that asbestos be removed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor, clearly marked, and disposed of in an approved landfill.
When asbestos in buildings is well contained, it doesn't pose much of a threat. But heat and flames can cause surfaces to crack, and firefighters often have to break through walls. These disturbances can release asbestos fibers into the air. Inhalation of these fibers may lead to mesothelioma, a fatal cancer that attacks the lining of the heart, lungs, or abdomen. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma.
Because firefighters routinely work in older buildings, their risk of developing mesothelioma from asbestos exposure is twice that of the U.S. general population, according to a recent study by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH).
Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville told WBTW that there is no indication of an excessive amount or troubling amount of asbestos. City officials hope that DEC will complete another round of testing soon and allow them to proceed with the cleanup.
Were you or a loved one exposed to asbestos and later diagnosed with mesothelioma? If so, you may be eligible for financial compensation to help with the costs of your illness. Contact Sokolove Law today for a free consultation and to learn more about filing a mesothelioma lawsuit.