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Sandy victims need to be aware of possible asbestos in debris

With the east coast still reeling from Superstorm Sandy, many of the areas impacted were once again pummeled by Mother Nature, except this time by a nor’easter – which left a thick layer of wet heavy snow that broke tree branches and downed power lines. According to the Los Angeles Times, Sandy alone may end up causing as much as $50 billion in losses and damage, with the recent storm adding to this destruction.

For many in these storm ravaged areas, it seems like one thing after another is being stacked against them and impeding their ability to rebuild following these catastrophes. Unfortunately however, there is one more thing that storm victims need to be aware of as they rebuild, namely asbestos exposure. This is especially worrisome given the strong connection between asbestos exposure and the development of mesothelioma.

Asbestos in Building Materials

Concerns regarding asbestos exposure generally follow natural disasters as the severe destruction – and the subsequent rebuilding – can easily release asbestos fibers that were previously safely contained in building materials. Consequently, unsuspecting emergency personnel, clean-up crews and homeowners can easily be exposed to asbestos as they try to repair the damage caused by natural disasters.

It is likely that most homes built prior to 1980 contained asbestos in one form or another. For example, many of the building materials that used to contain asbestos include insulation, drywall, ceiling tiles, caulk and shingles.

Airborne asbestos levels increase as these asbestos-containing materials are disturbed – and Sandy did a lot of “disturbing.” People can easily breath in these asbestos fibers as they can remain airborne for long periods of time.

Once inhaled, asbestos can lodge itself in lung tissue and airways, and ultimately lead to the development of mesothelioma many years later – sometimes as long as 20 to 40 years after exposure.

Consequently, if your home was damaged by a natural disaster or storm and you believe asbestos-containing materials may have been disturbed, it is important not to enter the contaminated area without proper protective equipment and respirators. Better yet, hire a qualified contractor to execute a proper clean-up and dispose of the asbestos for you.

Unfortunately for those exposed to asbestos decades ago – and are just now experiencing complications – recommendations regarding the handling of asbestos-containing materials often proves too little too late. If you have developed a health condition because of your exposure to asbestos, it is important to contact a knowledgeable asbestos exposure attorney as you may be entitled to damages.

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