Imagine the relief that you would feel after your home escaped involvement in a nearby fire, only to learn that the smoke and ash that blew around your dwelling may have put you at risk for malignant mesothelioma. That is exactly the nightmare that a Colorado neighborhood is experiencing today as they learn that the apartment building that caught fire last week was built using asbestos, and that authorities are now discussing what to do to try to contain the aftermath of the conflagration.
People know that firefighters face enormous risk as part of their job, but few realize that they are one of the occupations that is most at risk for malignant mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Many buildings and homes that were constructed prior to the 1990s used materials that contained asbestos, and though the material may not pose a threat when it is intact, once it is damaged by fire or some other force, it can break down into the microscopic particles that, once inhaled or ingested, can lead to illness. When firefighters enter a burning building that may contain asbestos, they are supposed to use special equipment to filter out asbestos, but their protective equipment can’t help those who are downwind of the blaze. Those people are at risk for asbestos in smoke and ash that rises from the fire site and is carried by the wind, as well as by water from firehoses that rushes downstream and may sink into groundwater.
When the Westminster apartment caught fire on July 22nd, neighbors did not immediately think of mesothelioma or asbestos, but now the issue is very much on their mind, as experts touring the fire site have determined that anybody in the immediate vicinity may be at risk. Asbestos particles were found in many areas around the perimeter of the fire scene. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment acknowledges that there is cause for concern, as the particles from the fire can easily be inhaled or ingested. So far the only visible action has been the placement of signs around the disaster site, warning people that asbestos is present. That provides little comfort, as asbestos diseases can take root easily from this type of exposure, and nobody will know for certain until years from now.
People who have mesothelioma are well aware of how easily the disease can take hold and how much it can ruin a life. If you have been diagnosed with this or any other asbestos-related disease and you need help, contact us today at 1-800-966-2244.