In Louisiana, one of the largest sources of jobs and revenue was once also one of the riskiest for asbestos exposure. The material was often used to insulate tanks and pipelines for the oil and gas industries. Many workers in those fields may have been exposed and are at risk for mesothelioma.
Shipyard and port workers were often exposed due to the use of asbestos in ship building materials, and miners working in salt mines may have been exposed as asbestos was used to prevent fires.
There are many less obvious sources of exposure as well, particularly in New Orleans. First responders and those who helped with cleanup during Hurricane Katrina, for example, may have handled asbestos in the wreckage of buildings destroyed by the storm.
According to an article in asbestos.com, several W.R. Grace facilities in the area used vermiculite containing asbestos to make attic insulation, masonry insulation, concrete aggregate, horticultural soil conditioner and Monokote, a popular spray-applied fireproofing that contained 10 percent to 19 percent chrysotile asbestos. Their manufacturing process released asbestos, affecting the neighborhoods and businesses around the plant. Though the primary plant closed in 1998, small traces of asbestos were detected through testing as recently as 2014. Jefferson Parish, where the former W. R. Grace vermiculite facility is located, is ranked 19th among all U.S. counties for mesothelioma deaths.
No level of asbestos exposure is safe, but more serious problems usually occur with repeated exposure. The fibers in asbestos are too small to be seen and, when inhaled, often become trapped in the respiratory system. This can lead to scarring of the lungs, known as asbestosis, and has been proven to be a cause of mesothelioma and other diseases.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, you should notify your doctor so you can be monitored for signs that you’ve been affected. These may include: