House fires are a serious issue for homeowners and their families, and the threat is compounded when structures containing harmful substances, such as asbestos, become burned and damaged. Here, the mesothelioma and toxic tort attorneys at The Law Offices of Peter Angelos detail the risks of asbestos contamination in house fires.
The Role of Asbestos in the Residential Construction Industry
Prior to the 1980s, asbestos was used in many of the building materials commonly found in residential homes, including insulation, roof and floor tiles, textured paint, siding and more. In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned all new uses of asbestos in products, although uses established prior to the 1989 ban are still legal. Homeowners and their families who live in homes built prior to this ban may currently have asbestos-containing materials within their home. These materials may include roofing felt, ceiling products, flooring, paints, insulation, cement board, gardening products, pipe lagging and more.
The Risk of Asbestos Exposure After a House Fire
While asbestos-containing products are typically considered safe in their whole, undamaged state, they can release asbestos fibers into the air if they are structurally damaged or burned. During a house fire, these fibers mix with the smoke and can be carried for miles. Individuals who inhale these tiny particles are at risk for several serious and often fatal diseases, including mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. Many of these conditions can take decades after exposure to show symptoms, and symptoms often remain undetected until the condition has reached a critical state.
Mitigating the Possibility of Asbestos Exposure After a House Fire
Due to the risk of asbestos exposure, homeowners and their families should rely on the help of professionals, such as asbestos abatement contractors, for clearing away debris after a house fire. If debris must be moved before professional help can be acquired, there are several best practices that should be employed to minimize exposure. These include,
- wetting debris so asbestos fibers are less likely to become airborne,
- only using properly fitted NIOSH-Approved, N-100, P-100 or R-100 respirators when handling debris,
- wearing boots, coveralls and gloves when handling debris,
- double-bagging all debris,
- enclosing work areas with plastic sheeting and duct tape to minimize dust, and
- washing oneself thoroughly after working with debris.
Although these are ways to potentially mitigate asbestos exposure, exposure may still be a possibility, and homeowners are strongly urged to leave cleanup and debris removal responsibilities to asbestos removal professionals.
Speak to One of the Toxic Tort or Mesothelioma Advocates at The Law Offices of Peter Angelos
Asbestos exposure is one of the many risks a house fire presents, and it is important for homeowners and their families to have an awareness of the building materials used within their home and whether they may contain asbestos. Resources are available for homeowners to learn more about detecting asbestos in their home.
If you are a homeowner, family member or first responder who was potentially exposed to asbestos and has developed an asbestos-related condition, contact the toxic tort and mesothelioma advocates at The Law Offices of Peter Angelos today to learn more about your legal options.