The Dangers of Asbestos

Disclaimer - Asbestos awareness and abatement are not part of the Firewise program. We are sharing FYI only. No Firewise community requires anyone to remove asbestos from their property. We hope all become aware of this danger as it pertains to fire.

House engulfed in fire [photo from]

The Collins View Firewise Community has been contacted by The Mesothelioma Center, which is focused on reducing cancer caused by asbestos in general. Their web site (below) has general information about asbestos and the dangers of asbestos exposure during and after a fire.

Hopefully you wouldn't be present DURING an urban wildfire, but the aftermath may be very bad around a house or structure that contained asbestos - siding for instance. Your home may not have asbestos, but a neighboring structure might, so it is important to be aware of the dangers during any cleanup phase. This would apply to owners or anyone helping clean up. Best we be aware and education ourselves now.

Asbestos During and After a Wildfire

Asbestos is one of the most heat-resistant substances known to man, yet it can be highly toxic when it is damaged by fire. When structures catch fire, asbestos products become damaged and release carcinogenic fibers that become airborne and are transportable by smoke.

The Mesothelioma Center has a free Asbestos and Natural Disasters Guide that covers the impact of wildfires on structures made with asbestos that include:

Here is an specific page on Natural Disasters: [LINK]

Here is their excellent page "How to Stay Safe from Asbestos After a Fire": [LINK]

If you've been living with Asbestos, consider reviewing their mesothelioma symptoms guide. Symptoms for this cancer that directly derivates from asbestos exposure may feel or look like less serious conditions so patients tend to take them lightly before going to a professional to treat them which complicates the treatment and course of the disease. This resource is medically reviewed by doctors. [LINK]

Consider having a mask for your home

In case one person stays behind or comes back after a fire to inspect damages, consider having a high grade respirator on hand.

One kind of respirator. Check the LINK for many more.

A range of filters are available depending on the hazard; particulate only or particulate plus chemicals - volatile compounders Here is a good survey: [LINK]

Collins View Firewise web guy says...

If you have asbestos siding - lord help you, because removing it is a hazardous, and therefore expensive to mitigate. There's little day-to-day danger present as painting encapsulates the fibers. If the siding has obvious damage, you decide what to do or say..

Asbestos Siding Placeholder image [no credit]

Asbestos siding was made with different patterns, including wood grain embossed onto it. Those folks of a certain age :^) are familiar with these tell-tale patterns, wavy edges, nicks and chips.. It's not just siding... certain old floor tile squares and rolled linoleum contain asbestos. Same with old roofing that may be underneath your newer roofing!

From Wikipedia: Asbestos is an excellent thermal and electrical insulator, and is highly fire-resistant, so for much of the 20th century, it was very commonly used across the world as a building material, until its adverse effects on human health were more widely acknowledged in the 1970s. Many modern buildings constructed before the 1980s are thought to contain asbestos.

So, if you live in a house built between 1920 and ~2004, you may want to schedule testing to assess how much asbestos is in the house and the risk of harm it presents to your family.

Asbestos siding can replaced with Fiber-Cement siding, or other fire-safe materials. Advice is beyond the scope of this article. Even if you don't have asbestos siding, you might look at neighboring houses, just to be aware.