For many years now, scientists have persistently confirmed that climate change is bound to increase the frequency and intensity of natural disasters worldwide. Here at home, we feel that climate warming in the form of severe wildfires, particularly in our western states. While fire is a natural and sometimes beneficial part of ecosystems found in the mountain ranges of California and Oregon, warming temperatures and drying soils – both of which are tied to human-caused factors – have contributed to what have become annual and deadlier wildfire seasons. This past year was no different.
For much of September in 2020, firefighter teams in Oroville, California, worked 50-hour stints to contain the massive fires that stretched across state lines. Though constantly on the verge of exhaustion, they pushed forward as they tried to save suburban houses threatened by advancing flames. Residents of the areas prone to wildfires are regularly displaced and exposed to toxins released by fires, including asbestos.
Wildfires and Asbestos Exposure
Before the 1980s, builders commonly used asbestos in the construction of residential buildings. As a highly durable material with fire-retardant properties, asbestos has long been a staple in many construction and industrial products. However, when disturbed or damaged – just as it would be in a wildfire – the mineral’s fibers produce a fine dust that forms deposits in the lungs when inhaled. These deposits may cause mesothelioma or other diseases like asbestosis. It has been declared by several agencies, including the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), that there is no “safe level of contact to asbestos.” Because of this, serious concerns persist regarding the exposure of firefighters and residents to the toxin in uncontained wildfire.
Fire and asbestos can be a deadly combination because fibers can travel long distances through smoke and wind. Even though certain buildings or homes do not contain asbestos materials, any area can become contaminated from airborne asbestos particles in wildfire conditions. Asbestos exposure may also occur during the debris removal, just as is the case in both Oregon and California.
Relaxing Asbestos Rules to Speed Up Wildfire Cleanup
In the aftermath of 2020’s disastrous wildfires, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control assessed and removed hazardous waste and bulk asbestos from burned residential properties. In Oregon, officials decided that to speed up removing debris from homes and buildings destroyed by wildfires; they would need to relax some of the essential requirements for handling asbestos. On October 9th, 2020, The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission authorized the temporary stockpiling of asbestos-containing debris before taking it to landfills. Given the definite risk of asbestos, it is difficult to rule out any possibility of exposure to it during these stockpiling or cleanup efforts.
How We Help Victims of Asbestos Exposure
Seek justice with the help of our experienced asbestos attorneys. Our asbestos law firm has represented individuals like you affected by asbestos exposure for over 20 years, aggressively fighting the corporate giants responsible for their dangerous products. If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos or suffer from a disease caused by asbestos like mesothelioma, we can help.