How a Natural Disaster Leads to Heightened Asbestos Risk

According to a recent news report from the Times Free Press, a community that was ravaged by a series of powerful tornadoes is now facing a serious problem as result of deadly asbestos-laden debris.

vermiculiteThe tornadoes ripped through the small southern town in late April of 2011.  It was dark and people were screaming as their homes were being torn apart.  Power lines were down as were utility poles, and people were covered in destroyed plaster walls, ceiling tiles, and all types of other construction debris.

People called 911 and were asked how many people were hurt.  One man said he didn’t know and said after the tornado came crashing through his town, his parents went out to look and see if there were survivors buried under the rubble.   He then told the dispatcher that he couldn’t see anyone but could hear people yelling and asking for help.

Much like in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks, people who were complete strangers to the victims helped friends and family work with local rescue workers to uncover the debris and find any survivors and recover any bodies.  Also like 9/11, they were putting themselves at great risk because there were in a dusty environment filled with asbestos fibers and other types of toxic material.

A lot of these homes and trailers were built before the late 1970s when asbestos was used in virtually every aspect of construction.  It was also used in many auto parts, and there were destroyed vehicles and farm equipment everywhere as well.  While some of the professional firefighters were wearing respirators with oxygen masks at least part of the time, many of the volunteers had absolutely no protective equipment and likely inhaled deadly asbestos fibers.

If you are wondering why the asbestos material is still in many of the homes if it is so dangerous, it has to with the fact that once asbestos is encapsulated into a product it is generally safe.  It is only during the construction process and the demolition process than many asbestos-laden products become highly dangerous. As our Boston asbestos injury attorneys can explain in your consultation, when the asbestos material is in a state where it is capable of being crushed with the power of a human hand, it is known as friable asbestos.  Friable asbestos is among the most dangerous forms of asbestos, because it gives off a lot of dust.  Since the dust contains the deadly asbestos fibers, friable asbestos presents the highest risk.

One interesting fact is that some organizations actually tell their volunteer aid workers to stay clear of any debris resulting from storm damage.  While it is clear there are people that need assistance, they urge that is best to wait for professionals with proper protective equipment.  While this seems reasonable on various levels, many see the need for help in front of them and are willing to put their health and safety at risk to help those in need.  This is what happened in this series of tornadoes as well as after other natural and manmade disasters.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Five years after the tornado, a killer lurks in the debris, April 24, 2016, Times Free Press, By Lynda Edwards

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A Look at How Military Veterans with Mesothelioma are Treated, March 28, 2016, Mesothelioma Lawyer Boston

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