Asbestos exposure and the deadly lung cancer mesothelioma continue to be a world-wide danger. It seems like every few days, a news reports adds a new occupation to the exposure at-risk list. Due to recent events at a New Zealand Department of Corrections facility, a significant number of prison officers risked asbestos exposure and severe health consequences.
A riot in Waikeria Prison resulted in numerous fires and material destruction. It took officers six days to quell the uprising. During that time, the prison officers suffered the effects of smoke inhalation and exposure to damaged building materials. While officials assumed a low risk of asbestos exposure, the danger could not be verified as the Department of Corrections cleaned all impacted equipment before it could be tested.
Corrections had confirmed the presence of asbestos
While the Department had earmarked the building for demolition due to the confirmed presence of asbestos, the riot took place in advance of any remediation efforts. The extent of the damage during the riot means that both guards and prisoners were likely exposed to the deadly asbestos fibers. Since Corrections had most of the safety kits cleaned before a lab could test them, a true baseline for exposure might not exist.
Prior to the 1980s, manufacturers used asbestos in numerous construction materials. The mineral exhibited significant flame and heat-resistant properties. For the protection of consumers and workers in heavy industry, manufacturers used asbestos mixed in with other materials. Unfortunately, as those materials broke down – were crushed, burned or deteriorated with age – the asbestos fibers were inhaled leading to a host of severe conditions.
Exposure to asbestos can lead to asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma. Individuals can suffer devastating symptoms that increase as the condition progresses.