Asbestos Exposure After a House Fire

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Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used in numerous applications, including house construction, for most of the twentieth century. While this material was found to be useful for its insulation properties, it was later found to be dangerous under certain circumstances. The material in its natural form is not harmful, but if asbestos fibers become airborne, their inhalation and ingestion can be deadly. Asbestos is most commonly known for causing mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Since it can take several decades for the symptoms of asbestos exposure to become apparent, it has taken an unfortunate length of time for medical, legal, and governmental authorities to take notice. Meanwhile, asbestos kills approximately 12-15,000 American citizens annually. While the use of asbestos in house construction largely declined in the 1980s thanks to EPA regulations, the material is to this day not 100% banned in the US. For these reasons, it’s our goal to inform you of the hazards and risks of asbestos exposure after a house fire, as well as how to safely remove the material and what to do if you have been exposed.

Asbestos Hazards After a Fire

A house fire is already a highly traumatic event; the loss of home and property, as well as the potential for exposure to smoke inhalation and burn injuries, leaves long-lasting damage on families who experience house fires. On top of it all, asbestos exposure is also a potential hazard that you should be aware of should you ever experience a house fire. Why is this?

First off, asbestos is latent in numerous buildings across the country. Because homes are constructed to last, many families inhabit homes that were built before the wide-scale elimination of asbestos materials from home builds. If you’ve ever lived in a home built before the 1980s, there is a much higher chance that that home may have been built with asbestos-containing materials. These materials can include:

  • Ceiling, floor, and wall tiles
  • Roofing and shingles
  • Electrical work and wiring
  • Pipes and plumbing
  • HVAC, boilers, and furnaces
  • Sheetrock, siding, and vinyl
  • Asbestos paper, sheets, felt, and cement
  • Asbestos insulation and fireproofing products

As you can see, the potential for asbestos inclusion in home builds is everywhere from floor to ceiling. As the final item in the above list indicates, asbestos is used for its fire-resistant properties. The word asbestos is rooted in the ancient Greek word for ‘incombustible’ or ‘inextinguishable’. Because of this, the material is not eliminated during a fire – rather it is released by a fire. Fire frees encapsulated asbestos fibers to disperse in the air surrounding the building. As most burning materials eventually collapse, the asbestos fibers can become even more disturbed and distribute further.

How to Know if You’re at Risk

Asbestos exposure can put you and your family at risk no matter how brief or small the exposure is. For this reason, we recommend directly addressing any questions concerning your potential risk of asbestos exposure.

If you don’t know whether your home has asbestos-containing materials in it or not, contact a local asbestos remediation company for help. They can safely assess your home, testing the air and materials for any potential asbestos threats while also advising you on any mitigation needs and the next steps to take. If you find that your home does have asbestos materials, you should then take the steps necessary to pay for the professional removal of the asbestos-containing materials from your home. Certified professionals will carefully and thoroughly clean your home to protect you from further exposure risk, while also safely removing the asbestos from the premises.

No matter the asbestos status of your home, make sure you follow fire safety best practices so that you can decrease the likelihood of a disaster occurring. Always keep smoke alarms installed, and make sure to regularly test them and replace their batteries as needed. Never leave a stovetop, candle, space heater, or fireplace unattended. These and other fire protection practices will help ensure that, whether you’re at risk of asbestos exposure in your home or not, the hazards of a house fire are less likely to add to your risk.

How to Safely Remove Asbestos After a Fire

If you experience a home fire, asbestos can be safely removed – but only by professionally trained technicians.

First off, if you have a house fire and are aware that asbestos materials have been a part of your home’s construction, do not revisit your home without, at the very least, donning full personal protective equipment and a face respirator to protect your airways. Your local fire department or asbestos abatement company can advise on what they recommend in your unique circumstances. Asbestos is not detectable by the naked eye, so please resist the urge to clean up and dig through the damage for personal belongings without ensuring that you are adequately protected.

For the best possible protection both now and for the future, enlist the assistance of a professional asbestos remediation crew. They should be equipped with the latest in personal protective equipment, self-contained breathing apparatuses, and non-disruptive asbestos abatement equipment. They should strictly follow OSHA and local guidelines to ensure that their home site is cleaned up and the asbestos is fully removed for a safe rebuilding site.

What to Do if You’re Exposed

If you think you have had asbestos exposure due to a house fire, the first step is to visit your healthcare provider and obtain a thorough medical checkup and analysis. If anyone else was in the home during or after the fire, make sure they’ve received medical attention as well. Not only is it important to ensure no immediate issues are present, but it will also help to establish a full medical record should symptoms arise later on.

Your next best step is to call an experienced asbestos attorney. We’ll answer any questions you have surrounding your asbestos exposure case and will advocate for you if you decide to pursue a lawsuit against the companies or individuals responsible for your home contamination. Contact us for a case evaluation to learn what your legal options are.