Asbestos Threat Heightened in Aftermath of Floods

Residents of storm- and flood-damaged buildings in Kansas are being warned by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that the risk of exposure to asbestos has been increased significantly in the wake of recent storms and flooding throughout the state.

Prior to 1980, asbestos was widely used as a building material in Kansas , and the removal and disposal of debris from flooding and storms may be exposing Kansans to unsafe levels of the deadly mineral fiber. The Department of Health and Environment warned residents to be careful in handling debris from buildings built before 1970, particularly damaged ceiling and floor tiles, textured ceilings, roofing materials such as roofing felt and shingles, siding, vermiculite insulation, pipe wraps, acoustical panels, and any materials made from asbestos-bearing cement, such as pipes, millboard, and corrugated sheets.

State regulations mandate that contractors removing asbestos-containing materials must be licensed by the state for that type of work. Homeowners may do the work themselves, and the Department of Health and Environment also specified a number of steps that homeowners removing potentially contaminated debris should follow.

  • Workers should have a respirator and gloves to keep fibers off their skin and out of their lungs.
  • Workers should shower and wash thoroughly following the removal of debris, to remove the fibers that might be adhering to the body and which could be inhaled later.
  • Material being removed from pre-1980s buildings should be wetted down with water under low pressure to minimize dust.
  • Materials that do not need to be disturbed should be left alone to prevent the unnecessary release of asbestos fibers.
  • Structures should be knocked down wall by wall, letting each wall fold onto itself to avoid breaking asbestos-containing materials and releasing their fibers.
  • Asbestos-containing debris should be kept wet and covered with a plastic sheet or tarp while being transported. Asbestos-containing materials can only be deposited at approved sites; contact the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for the nearest proper disposal site.