Beware asbestos when cleaning up storm damage

Frank S. Clowney III

As the summer of 2020 ends, Americans must deal with the damage from seasonal storms. Whether it’s a hurricane, derecho or wildfire, storms can wreak havoc on a neighborhood and cause significant damage. Even after the storm passes, cleaning up the debris comes with its own dangers.

Storms are not particular with their devastation, leveling old and new buildings alike. When cleaning up buildings constructed decades ago, many people will encounter asbestos. This notorious insulating material can cause significant harm when inhaled, including asbestosis, permanent lung damage and even cancer.

Take precautions when attempting clean up

Many devastated communities band together in times of tragedy to help restore their neighborhoods. Community effort is necessary for speedy and effective clean-up operations but has little focus on safety. Government officials offer citizens these asbestos safety recommendations when cleaning up storm-damaged buildings:

  • Prevent further breakage: Only attempt to move materials that must go. Attempting to move unstable materials can cause further breakage, potentially releasing more harmful asbestos fibers into the air.
  • Do not burn: Asbestos fibers are heat-resistant, so fire will not destroy them. Burning materials that contain asbestos will instead destroy its binding materials, allowing the fibers and dust to disperse.
  • Use water: Officials recommend dousing materials with water before moving Dampening debris that may contain asbestos will weigh the fibers down and prevent their release.
  • Contact the professionals: People looking for disposal sites can find more information from the professionals at the local landfill or transfer station. Each state, township or county may have different disposal requirements.

Though asbestos use has declined over the decades, lawmakers have failed to remove it from circulation altogether. Even today, floor tile, ceiling tile, wall and pipe insulation, asphalt roofs, textures, and linoleum all may contain asbestos. Exposure is not always immediately apparent either — symptoms of disease may not show for 20 years.

Those exposed to asbestos might have a case

Whether assembling construction materials or cleaning up debris, those exposed to asbestos can have a lawyer assess their case. A local attorney familiar with California’s personal injury law can answer questions, draw up legal paperwork and help find restitution.