Beyond the immediate loss and devastation that natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and tragedies like Sept. 11 cause, exposure to toxic substances left behind after these events pose an ongoing risk to victims and first responders. One of the most common and lethal of these substances is asbestos. This carcinogenic substance can be released or made airborne after a disaster. After all we know about the declining health of many first responders on the scene of floods, explosions, and other disasters, questions arise as to how to best protect men, women, and children from asbestos exposure after these events.
Asbestos is a group of minerals that are found naturally in the environment. These minerals can be separated into narrow, durable fibers for use in many commercial applications. Because asbestos fibers are strong, flexible, and fire-resistant, it has been widely-used in countless ways since the late 1800s, well before the risks of exposure were known. Asbestos has been used in insulation, roofing, pipes, tiles, paints, and plastics.
When products containing asbestos are damaged or disrupted, asbestos fibers may be released into the air. When humans inhale these fibers, they become lodged in the lungs. In time, this leads to scarring and serious respiratory problems. The United States Department of Health and Human Services and several other health agencies have classified asbestos as a human carcinogen, a substance known to cause cancer. It has been shown to cause mesothelioma, a rare but incurable cancer of membranes lining the abdomen and chest.
History has shown us that firefighters, law enforcement officials, EMTs, and other rescue workers and demolition crews, who are often first on the scene of a natural or man made disaster, are at significant risk of exposure to toxic substances like asbestos. According to ongoing research, 43 percent of 65,000 workers involved in the rescue and clean-up effort after Sept. 11 have been diagnosed with a chronic health condition caused by toxic exposure. Their rate of cancer is 20 percent higher than workers who were not at the scene.
After a disaster, everyone wants the cleanup effort to move quickly, but it should not be at the expense of our first responders rushing into help. The Environmental Protection Agency developed guidelines and procedures for the safe handling of asbestos after any type of disaster, especially involving structures built before 1975. The agency recommends enlisting specially-trained personnel for the removal and repair of anything potentially containing asbestos.
Mesothelioma claims are complex because physical symptoms of the disease often appear years or even decades after the initial exposure to asbestos. To learn more about your legal options for recovering compensation for your medical bills and lost income caused by an asbestos-related illness, schedule a free initial consultation with a knowledgeable Delaware asbestos lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Call us today at 302-656-5445 or contact us online to get started today. With office locations conveniently located in Georgetown and Wilmington, Delaware, we proudly serve clients throughout the state.
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