Though news reporters and relief workers spent a huge amount of time in Hurricane Maria’s aftermath focused on restoring electricity, drinking water and normal activity to Puerto Rico’s residents, they may not have realized that the greatest impact of the hurricane may not be realized until decades from now, when people may start to be diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. The island’s infrastructure, homes and water pipes were largely built using asbestos, the mineral that has been identified as the specific cause of this deadly form of cancer: when the storms 155-mile-per-hour winds and floodwaters demolished these structures, it sent microscopic particles of the carcinogen into the island’s air and its drinking water.
Asbestos is a mineral that was used in construction for decades, and the island of Puerto Rico is no exception. It is an inexpensive product that adds tremendous strength when combined with other materials, and which has the added benefit of being flame and heat resistant. Many of Puerto Rico’s homes, office buildings, hotels and infrastructure built prior to the 1970s were built using asbestos, and the water pipes that carry drinking water may have been made of asbestos concrete as well. Though this asbestos was considered safe when it was hidden behind walls and the concrete was undamaged, once the winds and rain came and devastated the island, it may have broken down and been exposed to the air, where it could then be inhaled or ingested and eventually cause malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer and other serious diseases.
For those living in Puerto Rico, mesothelioma may be the last in a long list of very real concerns, but it is something that they need to educate themselves about and be vigilant. Homeowners and business owners trying to clean up and renovate need to be aware that asbestos may be hidden amidst the debris of their homes, and may seep into their water supply from damaged water pipes. Testing is recommended, both of drinking water and air quality, and it is a good idea to ask their physicians to add possible asbestos exposure to their medical records.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, it may be as a result of negligence on the part of a manufacturer. To learn more about your rights, contact us at 1-800-966-2244.