Did Hurricane Katrina Expose Louisiana Residents to Mesothelioma Risks?

Louisiana Mesothelioma Lawyers

Natural disasters, including hurricanes, can produce devastating results in Louisiana. As most residents of New Orleans know all too well, Hurricane Katrina left the city with seemingly irreparable damage. While Hurricane Katrina occurred more than 10 years ago on August 29, 2005, the effects of this ruinous storm continue to impact Louisiana residents. To be sure, people throughout Louisiana are now being diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of Katrina, and are learning that their lives may have been shortened as a result of the long-term effects of the storm damage.

At Neblett, Beard & Arsenault, we are dedicated to helping Louisiana residents who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma caused by Katrina. We understand the deep impacts that this deadly hurricane left in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana, and we are committed to providing the best possible representation to residents who are suffering from this potentially fatal illness. Do not hesitate to contact a Louisiana mesothelioma lawyer if you have been diagnosed with this lethal disease.

 The Continuing Effects from Hurricane Katrina

In the days, months, and years after Katrina struck Louisiana, hundreds of thousands of residents were displaced, according to records from the U.S. Census Bureau. Indeed, the population of the New Orleans metro area dropped from 1.386 million before Katrina to 1.040 million just one year later. More than 150,000 housing units were completely destroyed. And nearly 100,000 people went from being employed to unemployed after Katrina hit, largely due to the forced closure of more than 2,000 business establishments. While some of those numbers have since rebounded, the city continues to feel the economic effects of Hurricane Katrina.

And New Orleans was not the only city impacted by the devastating hurricane. According to an article from CNN News, Katrina caused “severe flooding damage to Gulfport, Mississippi, New Orleans, Louisiana, and areas in between.” FEMA has described Katrina as “the single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history,” and the “costliest hurricane in U.S. history.” But those costs are not limited to economic ones, and losses are not limited to homes and other properties. More than 1,500 people died in Louisiana during Katrina, and the deadly impacts of the storm have not subsided. To be sure, according to a recent article in The Baltimore Sun, the extensive clean-up and demolition work that had to happen after the hurricane has resulted in serious risks to the health and safety of those involved.

 How Asbestos Exposure Happened from Katrina

How can a natural disaster create an asbestos problem? The risk of asbestos exposure—which comes with it the risk of developing mesothelioma—might not seem like a logical concern in the aftermath of a natural disaster such as a hurricane. However, wherever a lot of debris and property renovation occurs, there may be a risk of asbestos exposure.

Many buildings constructed before the 1980s contain asbestos, as a fact sheet from the National Cancer Institute explains. The group of minerals that make up asbestos were used in large numbers between the 1940s and 1970s for “strengthening cement and plastics, as well as for insulation, roofing, fireproofing, and sound absorption.” The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned certain uses of asbestos in the late 1970s, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned its use entirely in 1989. Can old homes expose people to asbestos? The answer is yes.

Now, how did asbestos exposure happen in Louisiana after Katrina? As a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) explains, the “EPA’s assurance that public health is protected from risks associated with inhalation of asbestos fibers is limited because the agency has not deployed air monitors in and around New Orleans neighborhoods where demolition and renovation activities are concentrated.” The EPA did, reportedly, take steps to monitor asbestos exposure immediately after Katrina hit, but the Ninth Ward—the area of New Orleans that was among those hit the hardest and devastated by the storm—was largely without ambient outdoor air monitors and other devices to monitor emissions at sites undergoing substantial debris reduction.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality issued a response to the GAO report, underscoring the serious failure of the EPA to keep Louisiana residents safe during demolition and renovation after the storm. The department cited particularly disconcerting language from the report that highlights some of the reasons that people were exposed to asbestos in the aftermath of the storm: “many thousands of homes being demolished and renovated by or for individual homeowners are generally not subject to EPA’s asbestos emissions standards aimed at limiting releases of fibers into the air.” In other words, the EPA did not take all possible steps to prevent asbestos exposure to individual Louisiana residents in the aftermath of the storm.

Who Was Exposed to Asbestos During Katrina?

Who might have been exposed to asbestos as a result of Hurricane Katrina cleanup? Generally, according to the National Cancer Institute, people who work in construction and building renovation typically are those who are at risk of asbestos exposure. But given that so many people from numerous different professions worked to demolish, renovate, and rebuild destroyed homes—many of which were constructed before the use of asbestos was banned—nearly anyone in the vicinity of debris may have been exposed.

As the National Cancer Institute explains, almost all Americans will be exposed to small amounts of asbestos at some point in their lives. Yet this exposure becomes very dangerous when it is frequent. Indeed, “people who become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with the material or through substantial environmental contact.”

Is Compensation Possible?

Who is responsible for asbestos exposure after a natural disaster? Given the federal government’s failures to protect Louisiana residents from asbestos exposure and increased risks of mesothelioma, it may be liable for injuries.

If you were exposed to asbestos during or after Hurricane Katrina, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit seeking financial compensation. At Neblett, Beard & Arsenault, we have years of experience assisting Louisiana residents with personal injury claims, and we are dedicated to helping victims of Hurricane Katrina. Exposure to asbestos after a natural disaster can lead to mesothelioma. If you may have been exposed to asbestos, you should discuss your case with one of the experienced Louisiana mesothelioma lawyers at our firm as soon as possible. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you. You can also call us directly at 800.251.1050.

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