Cases of ‘Sandy Lung’ On the Rise 10 Months After Storm Kicked Up Toxins

Though Superstorm Sandy blew across the Eastern Seaboard nearly ten months ago, the effects from that monumental storm are still reverberating throughout those ravaged communities. As people slowly rebuild their lives and homes, some are struggling with on-going medical struggles resulting from Superstorm Sandy. Coined “Sandy Lung,” a colloquial term loosely used in reference to the growing number of lung conditions being diagnosed among Superstorm Sandy survivors from being repeatedly exposed to asbestos, mold and other toxic materials.

Many storm-damaged communities are looking at preemptive lung screenings to detect any serious lung conditions in Sandy survivors. In Toms River, New Jersey, the Deborah Heart and Lung Center teamed up with the Robin Hood Relief Fund to provide free lung screenings in order to potentially stave off any lasting medical effects from the storm. A growing concern is that many of Sandy's victims have been living in or near destroyed buildings among asbestos and other toxins.

As a naturally-occurring fibrous mineral, asbestos was a highly versatile and sought-after material for the manufacturing of building supplies and products. Though asbestos was also used in the making of household items, automobile parts, and in ship-making, the most common application of the toxic mineral was in the creation of building materials. When it was discovered that asbestos is a carcinogen akin to cigarette smoke, many industrialized nations, including the United States, banned the use of and manufacturing with asbestos.

Especially in natural disaster situations, as it is the case with last year's Superstorm Sandy, building materials that contain asbestos become damaged and begin to deteriorate. When this happens, the asbestos truly becomes lethal. Small particles of asbestos contaminate the air allowing susceptible people – or those without proper protective gear – to breathe it in, becoming exposed, and potentially, developing serious lung conditions including pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

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