Contamination Caused by Katrina
One of the biggest concerns for most people was the contamination and debris left from the storm. Not only did it leave citizens powerless and without clean water, the storm also allowed toxic chemicals, materials, sewage, and other garbage to contaminate the flood waters. Among the looting, criminal acts and chaos, people were also becoming ill. The Department of Environmental Contamination and Pollution was the first to respond to this problem. This department was responsible for finding exactly what was in the water and in what quantity. Most were concerned with the pollution within the water, and thus did not realize what kinds of toxic substances polluted the air. Anyone in the area who was waiting to be rescued or was part of the clean up team was exposed to life-altering materials such as asbestos and arsenic particles let loose into the air from destroyed structures.
Asbestos particles are extremely dangerous when disturbed. It is not widely known that as New Orleans began to flourish as a city, its buildings and homes were constructed with asbestos containing materials. At the time, asbestos was used because of its durability, strength and fire resistant qualities. It was not until 1970 that people exposed to asbestos material began getting sick and terminally ill with a serious lung disease known as mesothelioma. New Orleans' rich history dates back to a time when asbestos was named a 'miracle material' and used almost within any structure built. Any type of destruction to the dwelling can cause asbestos fibers to become airborne. These fibers are then inhaled into the lungs creating scar tissue that can grow into cancerous tumors. In the case of Katrina, if the storm did not completely take down a building, it was eventually demolished by workers. Scientists and researchers conducting experiments on the pollution from the Katrina disaster believe that there was a large amount of asbestos material in the air. Thousands could have been exposed to this hazardous material, and those who came in contact with it may indeed begin to exhibit symptoms of lung-related illnesses later in life.
Clean up operations require workers who are trained in asbestos removal techniques. This ensures that asbestos materials will be safely removed and taken to a landfill that is suitable for its burial. Asbestos abatement is a very difficult process and those who are specifically trained are the only ones who should be handling the material. Its proper removal will keep the air asbestos free causing fewer people to be exposed to the life-threatening particles. Asbestos related diseases are normally discovered during later stages due to a long latency period. Because of this, mesothelioma and asbestosis are very difficult to diagnose and treat. It is important that if a person or business owner knows that the dwelling they own is still standing and was built before 1970 that they contact the proper authorities to test the air for the contamination by asbestos. For those who have lost their homes and business, it is necessary to have the area cleaned properly to protect those in the surrounding area from unnecessary asbestos exposure.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.