These have been turbulent times in terms of storm, hurricane and tornado activity, especially on the East Coast and in the Southeast. Decade high for hurricane season

Volatile weather can be devastating on many levels, and unfortunately may also mean increased exposure by homeowners and workers to a variety of potentially toxic materials, including asbestos, a known carcinogen linked to mesothelioma and other forms of lung disease.

Natural disasters often cause extensive damage to buildings which contain asbestos, releasing deadly mineral fibers into the air and putting relief workers and others at risk.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “exposure to airborne friable asbestos may result in a potential health risk because persons breathing the air may breathe in asbestos fibers. Fibers embedded in lung tissue over time may cause serious lung diseases.”

Heat resistant and inexpensive, asbestos was a hugely popular material used extensively through the 1970s to fireproof roofing and flooring, for heat insulation, and for a variety of other purposes. In fact, buildings constructed before 1980 are more likely to contain the potentially deadly material. In 1989 the EPA issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule which was subsequently overturned in the case of Corrosion Proof Fittings v. EPA. Asbestos Ban

This ruling leaves many consumer products that can still legally contain asbestos. In fact, among the wreckage removed in Joplin, Mo., after the 2011 tornado was 2,600 tons of asbestos debris. Asbestos threat in Sandy’s wake

According to the EPA //www.epa.gov/asbestos, up to 35 million, schools and businesses in the U.S. contain contaminated insulation. And the U.S. Geological Survey //www.usgs.gov/ reports that “asbestos consumption” increased by 13 percent from 2010 to 2011, for a total of 1,180 tons – with 41 % of that asbestos used in roof products. This is especially alarming, given that uber storms like last fall’s Hurricane Sandy may cause roofs to buckle and blow off buildings.

As long as it’s enclosed in building materials, asbestos is fairly benign. But once the materials gets wet, deteriorates and then dries out, it may crumble and deteriorate into powder. That dust can spread through the air into the lungs, where it can then become permanently lodged. Asbestos exposure

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