As highlighted on KYPost.com, the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection has issued a public advisory regarding asbestos contamination of demolition materials being shredded and then offered to the public as free mulch.

Although it is a requirement of the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) that businesses sample for asbestos before performing any demolition project, this demolition project was not reported to the DAQ. The demolition site was located just within city limits and close to a public highway. The building being demolished and containing asbestos materials was once the Independent Tobacco Warehouse.

According to The Kentucky Post, a grinder was used to shred any remaining demolition material, including old roofing that commonly contains asbestos, and make it into mulch, as a large portion of the material was old wood. The Department for Environmental Protection responded to a complaint about the demolition piles, and an air quality sample was taken. It was this sample which indicated that indeed there was asbestos in the free “mulch” piles.

Exposure to airborne asbestos can cause severe lung irritation and even asbestos cancers. A common asbestos cancer caused by exposure to airborne asbestos is mesothelioma. Mesothelioma affects the lining of internal organs like the lungs and stomach and often remains dormant for many years before diagnosis.

The scariest part of this type of asbestos exposure is that it is impossible to track which residents picked up this asbestos-laden “free mulch” and took it back to their homes or businesses for use. Nor is there a way to calculate the number of adults or children who may have been exposed during the demolition itself either, as particles were obviously airborne during the shredding and demolition process as well. The Post did not mention if workers performing the demolition were properly protected from exposure.

The Department for Environmental Protection immediately alerted the mayor of the town and Emergency Management Services of the asbestos contamination. The Independent Tobacco Warehouse and the company responsible for the site demolition were also cited for their violations.