Hurricane Ike may have passed through Southeast Texas a week ago, but one group is warning residents of another danger ahead – the "eminent threat of asbestos exposure" in the wake of the storm.
On Sept. 22, the Mesothelioma Cancer Center sent a public advisory to Southeast Texas emergency management for distribution to the local media.
The press release, from www.asbestos.com, instructed its recipients on how to deal with asbestos exposure and to contact them with questions.
"In an effort to provide the public with valuable information on how to prepare homes and safely deal with the threat of asbestos exposure, the Mesothelioma Cancer Center has created an informative section on their Web site that specifically addresses asbestos exposure and hurricanes," the press release states.
According to the Web site, asbestos.com's mission is to raise asbestos awareness "and to assist people who have already been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases."
However, there are some who are suspicious of the organization's true intentions, believing asbestos.com is a front for plaintiffs' lawyers who are "trolling for clients" and "hoping for big payoffs."
"(Asbestos.com) is not out to help," said Kirsten Voinis, a spokesperson for Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas. "They are out to line their own pockets."
When contacted for more information, an employee of asbestos.com said the organization was only trying to make people in the area aware that homes and buildings built prior to 1980 may contain hazardous asbestos products.
The employee, who did not give his name, also said the organization works with top mesothelioma law firms and can refer people stricken with an asbestos infliction to a lawyer.
"We've seen this tactic before. It's really sad a group of lawyers, who should be trying to help people, instead of … trying to take advantage of (Hurricane Ike) victims," Voinis told the Record in a telephone interview.
"We urge people to be careful of this type of ad … and to be aware of trial lawyers trying to flood our legal system with lawsuits … in hopes of getting a share of any award to come out the case."
Asbestos.com has been operating since 1995, and "is staffed entirely by individuals who have, in one way or another, been affected by cancer," the organization's Web site says.
The press release includes a list of common construction materials that may contain asbestos, such as roofing and ceiling materials, insulation, plumbing, pipe covering, some flooring, caulking and spackle, paneling and paint.
It also urges residents not to disturb any potentially contaminated materials and to use precautionary measures like wearing protective gear, wetting down the materials to keep fibers from becoming airborne and to contact a professional for abatement or repair.
"Safe asbestos abatement is very complex and it can be very expensive to purchase all the supplies needed to properly avoid exposure," the press release states.
CALA is a non-profit community coalition "dedicated to making the public better aware of the cost and consequences of frivolous lawsuits and other abuses of our legal system," the CALA Web site states.