Hurricane Katrina & Asbestos, bizzare it may sound, but is a reality as it tore apart old buildings which predominantly used asbestos. The asbestos dust not only was airborne during the hurricane, but also in its aftermath when the debris were being removed.
When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005, the impact was felt nationwide. Thousands of people flocked to Louisiana and Mississippi after the storm to help. Firsthand, they witnessed the devastation. In addition to the flooding that killed hundreds of people and destroyed scores of homes, the hurricane caused more than $80 billion in damages.
As the cleanup was underway, local residents and cleanup crews realized that danger wasn’t over. Asbestos fibers were being released into the air from the destroyed buildings and homes. Since this naturally occurring mineral was used in the construction of almost every building prior to 1980, including many in New Orleans, the threat was real. Asbestos was escaping from damaged insulation, tiles and other old and tattered building materials.
Many people who were handling these materials did not have the proper protection or training to do so — asbestos must be removed following specific federal guidelines and only by people wearing specialized protective equipments. As a result, those people who were helping others actually hurt themselves because they breathed in large amounts of asbestos fibers. These fibers stay in the body for years, embedding themselves into the lining of the lung, abdomen and heart. The fibers are known to irritate these tissues, causing fluid buildup and scar tissue. That leads to the development of mesothelioma tumors.
Following the events of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina and many other disasters in the United States, cases of asbestos-related cancers are expected to rise in the coming decades. Mesothelioma is a very slow-developing cancer, and its latency period can be as long as 50 years. People who have been exposed to asbestos, such as during the Hurricane Katrina cleanup, should see their doctor regularly to make sure mesothelioma is not developing. If it is, it must be caught early enough so treatment will be effective.
For these reasons, it is becoming increasingly important to get the word out about Hurricane Katrina & Asbestos. If you know people who were in New Orleans following the hurricane or who did not evacuate, educate them on the risks they may face. It can make a huge difference in their future.