An explosion that leveled a commercial establishment in Northwest Portland (Oregon) now has locals and environmental authorities concerned about asbestos contamination in the area.
KOIN-TV reports that a gas explosion, which destroyed a popular bagel shop in the neighborhood, prompted the destruction of asbestos-containing roofing material, which has contaminated the debris left behind after the blast.
Because of the apparent violent nature of the explosion and the fire that followed, the local Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is treating all the remaining rubble as contaminated, the story reports.
Hence, the DEQ has asked that all clean-up work in the area of the explosion be halted until a licensed asbestos abatement contractor can be brought in to complete the job.
Authorities report that abatement work was done on the building that housed the bagel shop in the 1990s, but they are unsure of what was removed at that time. Obviously, some asbestos remained behind.
“DEQ regulates asbestos and if it is found above 1% it’s a regulated material,” said Killian Condon, a spokesperson for the department.
“The sampling indicated that asbestos was found at 35% in the roofing material, [which is] high enough for us to warrant further investigation and also to require the work to be done by an abatement contractor.”
He added that the DEQ would devise a plan under which the work must be completed and stressed the importance of following outlined procedures.
“Asbestos fibers can’t be seen by the naked eye, so while we might see roofing over here, the fibers might be over here,” Condon added. “We have a work plan ready that we feel is protective of the public’s health and we’re ready to work with that contractor to make sure that’s the method they use to complete this work.”
Thankfully, firefighters who were called to the scene to investigate the gas leak just prior to the explosion were wearing respirators, which should have kept them from inhaling any asbestos dust that might have circulated after the bagel shop exploded.
Disasters such as this, as well as natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes, often prompt asbestos concerns, especially when old buildings that may contain asbestos materials are destroyed.
For example, there was much concern about asbestos contamination in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina some 11 years ago and even after the recent, less severe Hurricane Matthew, which pummeled the East Coast of the U.S.
At highest risk after such disasters are usually firefighters, paramedics, and others involved in search and rescue or recovery operations.
If there is a possibility that asbestos is present, those charged with the task of combing through the rubble must be wearing the proper protective gear to keep them from inhaling asbestos.
Hopefully, in this particular case, the discovery of asbestos was quick enough to avoid any unnecessary exposure thought that’s not always the case. Many first responders have been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer over the last several decades due to unexpected exposure to toxic asbestos.