Wildfires prompt asbestos exposure concerns

The recent California wildfires have swept through the state, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres. The Thomas Fire was one of the largest in California history and covered about 238,500 acres. These large-scale wildfires are not limited to California. North Carolina has already had over 100 wildfires this month. Those living through these fires should be aware that these wildfires have an asbestos exposure risk.

Wildfires not only destroy nature, but also houses and other buildings that may contain asbestos. When these structures burn, asbestos fibers may become airborne, creating a dangerous environment. Inhaling or ingesting asbestos can cause a fatal asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma.

Asbestos fibers can travel long distances and create massive amounts of hazardous waste. Other materials, such as chemicals, pesticides, propane, gasoline, plastic and paint, burn down into toxic ash. Older homes may have asbestos-containing siding, shingles or pipe insulation.

A lung specialist advises people to wear masks when they are outdoors after wildfires. In addition, all clothing should be washed immediately to avoid potential secondhand exposure. It is not advisable to sweep up dry asbestos materials. To prevent them from becoming airborne, they must be wetted down by applying damp cloths or spraying with water. A negative-pressure enclosure vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter may also contain asbestos and prevent it from becoming airborne. Nonetheless, asbestos abatement is best left to the professionals who are trained to avoid and minimize fatal asbestos exposure.

These dangers of asbestos highlight its danger and pervasiveness. As such, if one finds themselves with an asbestos-related disease, like mesothelioma, they should contact an attorney. After all, while it may have been caused by environmental exposure, it is much more likely that it was caused by more prolonged exposure, such as on the job.

Source: Asbestos.com, “California Wildfires Spur Asbestos Concerns,” Matt Mauney, Dec. 15, 2017