February 26, 2012

Asbestos and Tornados

Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of wind that circulate at the base of cumulonimbus, or less frequently, cumulous clouds. The column formed typically stretches between the base of the cloud and the surface of the earth in the familiar shape of a cyclone. Tornadoes are a naturally occurring phenomenon that happens on every continent of the world except Antarctica. One of the more tornado-prone areas of world is the Midwestern United States. Tornadoes, while visually stunning and impressive, can also be quite destructive and dangerous. The dangers of tornadoes include not only the raw power of the storm itself, but the aftermath and recovery efforts.

For those that live in tornado prone areas, they are all to familiar with the effects that the violent winds can have on their properties. From roof damage to complete-leveling of a structure, a tornadoes force is certainly one to be reckoned with and understood. Formed initially by a form of storm known as a supercell, the cloud must then have the appropriate upward flow source of warm air. When these situations intersect, the young cyclone begins to circulate. A tornado’s growth is dependant upon the supply of warm air around it. When a tornado is at its height of growth, known as its mature stage, it can be the most damaging. With wind speeds reaching nearly 300mph, this is when the tornado is most dangerous, with the ability to destroy nearly anything in its path. After the tornado reaches its mature stage, high pressure begins to build up around the funnel and constrict to a smaller airborne cyclone that eventually dissipates.

Tornadoes can occur within a matter of minutes and ravage an entire community. In the debris is where most aftermath dangers will be found. The release of harmful particles by the destruction infrastructure that contained these particles is of specific concern. Asbestos is one such particle that could be released into the air. By disturbing previously stable asbestos particles that may have been present in roofing, siding, or piping installations, they could possibly be released into the air. When inhaled, asbestos is especially dangerous. Those exposed to asbestos may be at risk for developing mesothelioma, a dangerous cancer that is usually associated with a short life expectancy and low survival rate. Tornadoes have the propensity and the power to cause the necessary damage that would lead to asbestos exposure. Often, it is not the property owner who is affected but those who are responsible for the recovery and clean up in the wake of a tornado’s wrath.

There are certain precautions that one can take against tornado induced asbestos exposure. While the storms are random in where they may touch down on the earth’s surface, sever weather warning in tornado-prone areas should be a good indicator of the possibility of one occurring. In addition, the replacement of older (pre-1980) installations of siding, roofing, or plumbing will decrease the chance of asbestos being released into the air. For those who specialize in clean up efforts following tornadoes, there are appropriate safety measures that should be undertaken if these materials are present. If asbestos is deemed to be present in the area, only a licensed abatement contractor should undergo the removal of these materials.


Common Products Containing Asbestos
Handling Asbestos