Flood water may contain asbestos and other contaminants
Woburn, Massachusetts – March 29, 2011
The strong rains that affected the Northeastern United States this month caused major flooding in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Northern New Jersey and Pennsylvania. As the flooding is resolved, residents may be coming home to serious environmental contamination. Homeowners will not only have to deal with water damage and subsequent mold growth, but also the sewage backup, bacteria, asbestos and chemical contaminants often caused by floods.
The toxic mineral asbestos was also a problem with the recent floods in Australia. This carcinogen, known to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the body’s major organs and cavities, was used in a variety of pre-1980’s building materials. Asbestos-containing debris from damaged buildings can contaminate flood water, but still pose a threat even when the water evaporates, as cracked and drying materials can release hazardous fibers into the air. When inhaled, these fibers lodge in the lungs, causing damage over decades that eventually lead to the onset of pleural mesothelioma, a cancer that specifically affects the lining of the lungs.
Residents should avoid coming in contact with possibly contaminated water and should never pick up debris with bare hands. Masks should be worn to prevent inhaling airborne asbestos fibers. However, when dealing with these types of environmental hazards, it is usually safest to leave testing and cleanup to professional analysis and abatement contractors.