Victims of a natural disaster can suffer devastating losses if a loved one is killed or their home and cherished possessions are destroyed. Unfortunately, given our more dangerous weather conditions, natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and fires, are increasingly common.
A natural disaster can result in long-term consequences for people trying to clean up the mess if they're exposed to asbestos and develop mesothelioma—an aggressive form of cancer that's almost always fatal. However, victims may be able to hold manufacturers of products containing asbestos and other negligent parties responsible for compensating them for their injuries.
How Natural Disasters Cause Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma
Asbestos is a natural mineral that was widely used in a variety of consumer and commercial products due to its strength and resistance to heat and chemicals. It wasn't until the early 1980s that its cancer-causing properties were revealed to the public.
Many homes, businesses, and other commercial properties that are damaged in a natural disaster were built with products containing asbestos before this time period. While asbestos is relatively safe when not damaged, it can be ripped, broken, burned, blown, or washed away in a natural disaster. When this occurs, tiny asbestos fibers release into the air, which can be easily inhaled by anyone in the vicinity.
Once inhaled or swallowed, asbestos fibers travel into the linings surrounding the lungs, abdomen, heart, and other vital organs where they become trapped and grow into deadly mesothelioma. It can take anywhere from 20–to–50 years for a person to experience enough symptoms for this cancer to be diagnosed. In many cases, the disease has progressed significantly by the time of diagnosis, and treatment options are limited.
People in occupations on the scene of a natural disaster are at high risk for asbestos exposure. First responders include:
- Police officers
- Emergency medical personnel
- Cleanup crews
Homeowners searching through the rubble for possessions and removing debris are also at risk.
Common Products Made With Asbestos
Many household products and building materials contain asbestos, especially in older homes and buildings. These include:
- Roofing felt and shingles
- Home siding
- Drywall taping and plaster compounds
- Pipes coated with asbestos or covered with asbestos tape or blankets
- Appliance parts
- Gardening products
- Electrical insulation and panels
- Vinyl floor tiles, sheets, and adhesives
- Ceiling products
- Table pads
- Fireplace decorations
- Heating and cooling systems
- Heat-resistant clothing
Tips to Avoid Asbestos Exposure After a Natural Disaster
If you're the victim of a natural disaster or on a first response team, it's essential that you take precautions to minimize your exposure. Follow these safety tips:
- If moving items before a professional arrives, be certain to wet down materials to reduce the danger of airborne asbestos particles.
- Wear a secure NIOSH-approved respirator, as well as protective clothing such as coveralls, boots, and gloves to provide protection from asbestos fibers.
- Double-bag debris to avoid rips and spills.
- Enclose any work areas in plastic sheeting and duct tape to reduce exposure to dust.
- If construction materials must be moved, try not to break them apart to avoid releasing dust and asbestos fibers into the air.
- Thoroughly shower after working so asbestos fibers aren't released into your home. Additionally, the safest way to handle the clothes you wore while removing asbestos is simply throw them away. Washing them in a conventional machine won't remove the particles, and could spread them throughout other laundry.
Let Us Help You
If you or a family member received a mesothelioma diagnosis after asbestos exposure in a natural disaster, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering from product manufacturers or other negligent parties.
Our experienced mesothelioma attorneys are here to help you fight for the justice you deserve. We assist victims throughout the country and can come to you. In addition, we handle these cases on a contingency fee basis—this means you don't owe any fees unless we reach a settlement for you.
To learn more about your legal options and how we can help, start an online chat to schedule your free case review.