Asbestos is one of many concerns after a natural disaster strikes. Natural disasters can cause damage that exposes you and your family to deadly asbestos fibers.
Asbestos and Storm Damage
After a storm damages your home, immediate concerns like removing standing water and preventing mold growth are most people’s priority. But you need to be aware of exposure to deadly asbestos-containing materials.
Asbestos-containing materials that are undisturbed and in good condition rarely pose a health risk. Storms can cause structural damage that loosens and rips apart materials built with asbestos, launching cancer-causing particles into the air.
You’re also at risk of asbestos exposure during the restoration process. Restoring your home often requires the demolition and removal of materials that may contain asbestos.
Asbestos causes a type of cancer known as mesothelioma. There is no known safe level of asbestos exposure. If your home has been damaged, you and your family could be exposed to deadly asbestos fibers.
What Makes Asbestos So Dangerous?
- Asbestos fibers can remain airborne for hours.
- Airborne fibers aren’t visible to the naked eye.
- The microscopic fibers lodge into the lining of the lungs, which can cause mesothelioma, a rare cancer with a notoriously poor prognosis.
- Even a small amount of exposure could be potentially deadly.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used widely in housing materials in the 20th century. Asbestos is a lightweight, fire-resistant insulator that made made the mineral a wonder material in the days when it’s devastating health effects weren’t known.
Most people who own homes built in the 1980’s and prior can find asbestos throughout house. Before the 1980’s, there were few restrictions on the use of asbestos, despite its carcinogenic properties. Nearly all older homes are likely to have asbestos. Asbestos is rarely a concern if it remains undisturbed.
Home materials that may contain asbestos include:
- Roofing materials
- Appliance components
- Ceiling products
- Cement board
- Electrical wiring
- Wall paneling
- Heating and cooling equipment
If a natural disaster has destroyed part of your home, there may be airborne asbestos fibers in your home. It’s important to vacate your home in scenarios like this. If your home has been damaged by a flood or other wet weather, it can help lower the amount of asbestos fibers in the air. But the fibers can become airborne as the air dries.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Asbestos is a carcinogenic mineral. Carcinogens are materials that can cause cellular damage that leads to cancer. Scientists have proven the link between asbestos and a type of cancer known as mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and/or heart. Inhaling airborne asbestos fibers causes mesothelioma over a period of decades.
When inhaled, tiny asbestos fibers become stuck in the lungs. The lungs try to expel the fibers from the body, but the fibers get lodged into the lining of the lungs. This lining, known as the mesothelium, allows the lungs to naturally expand and contract. But the microscopic fibers cause genetic mutations in the mesothelial cells, which eventually replicate uncontrollably forming tumors and a rigid mesothelium.
Mesothelioma is a deadly disease that has a poor life expectancy. Although it takes decades for the disease to develop, it’s one of the hardest types of cancer to treat.
Removing Asbestos from a Storm-Damaged Home
If you have an older home, you should assume that any destroyed wall, roofing, ceiling, or flooring materials contained asbestos. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends having a professional inspect your home before starting any repairs. It may be impossible to tell if unlabeled building materials contain asbestos.
The cost of removing asbestos in your home ranges from $575 to $4,000, according to HomeAdvisor. This amount includes asbestos testing, materials, and labor.
Removing asbestos from a home requires special equipment to test the air and respirators before any restoration work begins.
Here are some things to be aware of when attempting removing asbestos-containing materials from your home:
- Don’t move undamaged asbestos-containing materials.
- Avoid damaging any asbestos-containing materials further.
- Refrain from dusting, sweeping, or vacuuming debris.
- Don’t use sandpaper or abrasive materials to remove asbestos.
- Have major removal and repair completed by qualified professionals.
If you’ve experienced structural damage to your home, and you suspect that there might be asbestos, you should absolutely consult with an asbestos removal expert who can test the material and safely remove it if necessary.
The Envionmental Protection Agency. (2016) Learn About Asbestos. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/learn-about-asbestos
The Envionmental Protection Agency. (2016) Protect Your Family. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/protect-your-family
HomeAdvisor. (2016) How much does it cost to remove asbestos? Retrieved from: http://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/environmental-safety/remove-asbestos/