Natural disasters and asbestos

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Natural disasters can leave massive trails of damage and hazards in their wake from the moment they occur. But natural disasters can also pose a threat to health in the long run. The reason? Because events such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, fires and earthquakes can expose human beings to asbestos and asbestos- containing products and materials.


One of the main sources of destruction that comes from hurricanes is storm surges. These surges can cause flooding along coastlines, causing much of the damage and resulting debris, and it is these damaged structures, which can release the dangerous asbestos fibres. Following Hurricane Sandy, which hit Louisiana and Mississippi on Aug. 29, 2005, more than 9,375,000 cubic feet of debris was transported to nearby landfills containing asbestos. As a result of this massive influx, there are now concerns regarding groundwater contamination from the three main landfills in New Orleans.


Earthquakes strike suddenly and can often create significant levels of damage to buildings and other infrastructure, exposing asbestos to the surrounding environment.

One recent example of this can be seen Sichuan, China, where an earthquake that struck in 2008, caused high levels of asbestos exposure. The earthquake destroyed many buildings where, following popular Chinese building methods, the external walls had been made up off asbestos cement sheets- commonly known as “fibro” or “fibro-cement”. When broken this released fine fibre pieces of asbestos into the air, and causing serious concerns for future health issues.


Fire and asbestos have an interesting history with each other. Asbestos is one of the most heat-resistant substances known to man, yet when confronted with fire in can be highly toxic. A Dutch Marina Fire highlighted this, in a blaze that caused the local area to be shut down for 10 days. City officials urged residents to keep windows and doors shut and avoid going outside in order to avoid being contaminated with the mineral. Affected areas were subsequently sprayed to prevent asbestos particles from floating in the wind.


Tornadoes are highly unpredictable in there destructive abilities, but when they hit. At their most destructive they can reach 300 mph and stretch more than a mile high! In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 2011, one of the largest recorded tornadoes hit Alabama, reaching 80.3 miles on the ground. As a result of the damage cause Alabama health officials said there was a likelihood of asbestos in the tornado debris.

We hope that you found this insight into asbestos around the globe interesting, if you have any concerns at all over asbestos in one of your properties, please give us a call on 0333 772 0424.

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