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Residents in a New York City neighborhood are concerned about the risk of asbestos exposure after a steam pipe exploded due to underground pressure. The pipe was installed decades ago and people are worried that the pipe contained asbestos insulation to protect it from the extreme heat of the steam.

Typically, an underground pipe wouldn’t pose much risk of asbestos exposure. In this situation, however, the pressure in the pipe built up to the point that the explosion erupted through the surface leaving a large crater in its wake. Residents are worried that the explosion ejected asbestos fibers into the air – leading to the possibility of inhalation which could, ultimately, cause cancer.

Dozens of surrounding buildings were evacuated and work is underway to decontaminate the area. The city has put a plan into action to test and confirm the presence of asbestos. Con Edison, the owner of the steam pipe network, has established local help centers where individuals can turn in their clothing. Residents have been given instructions regarding personal cleanup and protection.

Asbestos exposure poses many health risks including mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer caused by the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers. Prolonged exposure to these materials increases an individual’s likelihood of developing the disease. In this scenario, the risk might be mitigated as it was a one-time event rather than months or years of inhalation. However, the risk remains and individuals are encouraged to protect themselves or discuss their situation with an experienced mesothelioma attorney.