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Environmental Toxin Awareness after Natural Disasters

Graphic of the poison symbol skull and crossbones against a yellow caution background
Category - General
by Hillary Bowling on April 16th, 2018

In the face of a changing climate, extreme weather events are increasingly likely to occur. Hurricanes may be more frequent and more intense, while other parts of the world suffer from a drying climate and heightened risk of wildfires. Natural disasters themselves are often the primary concern, but what about the aftermath? Dealing with the debris and attempting to rebuild communities can mean encountering additional and unexpected risks, including exposure to toxic building materials disrupted during extreme weather events.

Unfortunately, much of our built environment was not constructed with public health in mind. While today there is a growing focus placed on meeting various green building standards such as LEED or WELL certifications, aging buildings and infrastructure may have been erected with materials now known to be dangerous. Specifically, these can include toxins such as lead and asbestos, both of which pose grave health risks. Lead may negatively impact almost every part of the body, causing damage to the brain, kidneys, liver, endocrine system, and much more. Asbestos exposure is capable of causing several types of lung diseases and cancers, but it can also lead to cancer in the linings around organs, such as the abdomen or heart.

Adding to the concern is the degree to which these materials are present in older buildings. Asbestos was widely used in many construction materials, including insulation, roofing tile, flooring, and more. Lead was previously a common ingredient in paint. In each circumstance, the risk of exposure only occurs if these toxins are somehow disturbed, broken down into tiny particles, and inhaled or otherwise ingested.

When natural disasters disrupt materials containing these toxins, the risks posed are substantial. After the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, affected communities were concerned about possible asbestos exposure. In the wake of last year’s California wildfires, the California Department of Toxic Substances cautioned the public about potential environmental health risks present in debris. Public health officials are not able to prevent natural disasters, but they can raise awareness and educate the community to decrease the risk of toxin exposure.

How will you alert your community if the unthinkable occurs? The moments after disaster strikes are equally as critical, if not more critical than the moments before. Using the One Call Now platform, you can alert your community of when it is safe to re-enter buildings and disaster zones. One of the greatest features of our service is the various media through which messages can be sent and received. You can send messages via your computer or any mobile device. Messages can be received through three main forms: voice calls, texts, and emails. This ensures the likelihood of everyone receiving the message, reducing the risk of encountering dangerous toxins.

For more information about environmental toxins following natural disasters, visit the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center.

Start your free trial of One Call Now today and see just how easy it is to use the One Call Now platform and keep your community safe.

Special thanks to Anna Suarez for co-authoring this blog.