The recent spate of natural disasters to hit the eastern part of the United States has led health officials to warn residents in affected areas to use caution when handling debris, especially when it comes to asbestos.
According to a recent release from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, State Health Director Dr. Jeff Engel has warned local residents to be careful when cleaning up the damage caused by Hurricane Irene, which tore through the state last week.
The release specifically touched on residents whose homes had experienced flooding, as damage from such issues can have serious consequences in older facilities built with asbestos materials.
“Buildings built before 1975 may have asbestos insulation and tape on the heating systems,” the release notes. “Leave any suspected asbestos in place until it can be removed by trained asbestos professionals.”
Caution Urged Over Asbestos-Containing Floor Tiles
Flood damage can pose a number of risks to homeowners, with floor tiles often hit the hardest. According to the release, hurricane flooding victims are advised to disinfect, clean and dry tile or linoleum floors, with the exception of flooring that contains asbestos.
This is due to the fact that the potential for grinding or chipping off some of the floor tiles increases when they are cleaned, opening the door for asbestos to be released into the environment, which can have deadly consequences for those in the area.
Asbestos Risks Well Documented
Preventing the release of asbestos fibers into the air during hurricane damage cleanup is essential, as it has been clear since the mid-1960s that exposure to the carcinogenic material can lead to the development of a number of serious illnesses including lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that attacks the tissues surrounding a majority of the body’s internal organs.
According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 2,500 people across the U.S. are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Treatment for the disease typically focuses on keeping the patient as comfortable as possible, as the disease is often not diagnosed until the later stages.
With these serious health risks in mind, citizens are encouraged to tread cautiously when dealing with debris caused by both Hurricane Irene and the recent earthquake in Virginia in order to avoid the disturbance of asbestos.