In an emergency, we all rely on those who get there first to help. Emergency personnel are usually the first responders to the most dangerous situations that affect their communities. Asbestos can be released into the air any time it is disturbed and many emergencies require first responders to rush into situations where asbestos is all around them.
Firefighters and other first responders can be exposed to asbestos through building debris or smoke from a fire.
One study showed that firefighters are twice as likely to develop mesothelioma than the average American.
First Responders at Risk
- 9/11 responders
Houses were commonly built with asbestos during most of the 20th century. When first responders arrive at an older house to help, they may be exposed to asbestos. When asbestos is disturbed it can become airborne. Asbestos can stay in the air for long periods of time. When a building collapses or catches on fire, asbestos can be released into the air. Firefighters or other first responders can breathe in these fibers while responding to emergencies. Over time, asbestos stuck in the lungs can cause mesothelioma to form.
Responding to a building fire is a dangerous job but on top of the obvious risks, asbestos exposure can be a serious concern. Older homes commonly contain asbestos. Any asbestos materials that burn in a fire could release that asbestos into the air. Anyone nearby such as firefighters and EMTs could breathe in asbestos in the smoke. When people breathe in smoke containing asbestos, they are at risk of developing asbestos related diseases, like mesothelioma.
Asbestos can also be released in large quantities when a building collapses. Any time a building collapses unexpectedly, there is a chance that asbestos has been released into the air in the dust and debris. In these cases, there are often emergency personnel on the scene to help control the situation and help the people who are nearby.
On September 11, 2001 the World Trade Center buildings were attacked. Not only was this devastating, but it is also having a lasting effect on the health of the heroes who responded to the crisis. There were thousands of tons of asbestos in the buildings. When the buildings collapsed, that asbestos was released into the air in the dust and smoke.