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EPA Urges Caution When Re-entering Hurricane-Damaged Homes and Buildings

Release Date: 09/04/2005
Contact Information:


Contact: Eryn Witcher 202-564-4355


Washington, D.C., Sept. 4--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal, state and local officials are urging individuals to use caution when returning to hurricane-damaged homes and buildings. EPA today issued an advisory to the public that provides general guidance to help address potential hazards in structures damaged by hurricane Katrina.

EPA urges the public to be on the alert for leaking containers and reactive household chemicals, like caustic drain cleaners and chlorine bleach, and take the following necessary precautions to prevent injury or further damage:

Keep children and pets away from leaking or spilled chemicals.
Do not combine chemicals from leaking or damaged containers as this may produce dangerous or violent reactions.
Do not dump chemicals down drains, storm sewers or toilets.
Do not attempt to burn household chemicals.
Clearly mark and set aside unbroken containers until they can be properly disposed of
Leave damaged or unlabeled chemical containers undisturbed whenever possible.

Individuals should exercise caution when disturbing building materials to prevent physical injury or other health effects. Building materials may contain hazardous materials such as asbestos that when carried by the air can be breathed in and cause adverse health effects. If it is suspected that asbestos containing materials may be present, they should not be disturbed. Asbestos containing materials include the following:

boiler/pipe insulation
fireproofing
floor tiles
asbestos roofing
transite boards used in laboratory tabletops and in acoustics in auditoriums, music rooms and phone booths

Federal, state and local personnel are being deployed to the hurricane-affected areas to establish debris-management programs, including household hazardous waste collection and disposal programs. These efforts may take days or weeks to come to all communities. In the meantime, EPA urges the public to exercise caution and report concerns to local environmental, health and waste disposal authorities.

For more information, the public can go to http://www.fema.gov/regions/iii/env/debris.shtm. Government officials can get information on managing hurricane debris at http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/muncpl/disaster/disaster.txt.
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