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Town figuring out what to do with asbestos-tinged equipment

When people have been exposed to asbestos, it might be years -- even decades -- before they are diagnosed with conditions such as mesothelioma or lung cancer. This is why It is crucial, if a person thinks that he or she may have been exposed to asbestos recently, to take action as soon as possible.

A city in Vermont now knows that some of its firefighters were likely exposed to asbestos a couple of months ago and the city council is trying to decide what to do about it. Firefighters in Barre responded to a blaze at a granite plant in the city just before Christmas. In an attempt to keep the fire from spreading, firefighters tore into the roof of the aging building.

However, it turns out that the roof contained asbestos. This was not known to the city at the time of the fire and so it came as a surprise to the city council, not to mention the firefighters who were present at the scene.

Now the city -- which is struggling, as many municipalities are these days, with budget concerns -- has to figure out what to do with the equipment. The fire chief says the equipment was cleaned as well as possible, and it remains in service basically because the town would have to shutter its fire services otherwise. However, it is not known if the contaminated equipment -- including straps for helmets and fire hoses -- is truly free of asbestos. It may take the complete replacement of the gear to know for sure. In any case, people will be monitoring the situation closely, and it remains to be seen what effect this will have on the people who are responsible for putting on that gear in Barre.

Source: The Barre Montpelier Times Argus, "Council weighs response to asbestos-tainted fire gear," David Delcore, March 7, 2013

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