Asbestos in an Earthquake

firefighter in a burnt buildingCalifornia typically sees two to three large earthquakes a year. At a magnitude of at least 5.5, they are strong enough to damage buildings. While asbestos exposure is nearly synonymous with large corporations who expose their employees, Mother Nature plays a role too.

Asbestos can be found in many older construction materials, located in:

  • Roofs
  • Floors
  • Pipes
  • Ceilings
  • Boarding
  • Paint
  • Wallboards
  • Insulation
  • Heating and cooling

With damage to houses, office buildings, apartments, churches and schools during an earthquake, asbestos can quickly be disturbed and released into the air. Those at the highest risk for asbestos exposure are the emergency responders and volunteers helping during a disaster, though everyone in the area may risk exposure to airborne asbestos.

Experts recommend that professionals do all asbestos cleanup. Still, in the case of natural disasters, you may not have the option to wait for a professional team. To minimize exposure, follow these tips:

  • Wet materials before moving them to minimize asbestos becoming airborne
  • Cover debris completely
  • Wear protective gear like boots, coveralls and gloves
  • Only disturb materials if absolutely necessary
  • Dispose of asbestos-containing materials according to California’s regulations
  • Thoroughly wash your body to remove any dust
  • Dispose of the clothes you were wearing because asbestos may be in the fibers of your clothing and could expose your family through washing machines

Everyone should also keep protective masks with high-quality respirators to protect from asbestos inhalation in their household emergency response kit, especially in places with high asbestos exposure.