By Andrew RobbinsCSMS Magazine Staff writerHurricane wind and levee flooding created New Orleans’ disaster, leaving behind immeasurable mental and physical damage. An aging relative had completely refurbished his childhood home prior to rising water destroying his work. He had stayed behind to defend his household’s heritage. Both he and the restored home survived the wind. However in the devastating flooding that followed, he lost his home to the rising water and became so distraught that a stroke ended his life. His mistake was placing faith in government. Governments are thought to provide protection, but when the levee failed he realized—government had abandoned him. His will not be the only life lost to collateral damage! In the coming years there will be many more. Why? New Orleans was one of many high-population centers that received thousands of shipments of Libby, Montana vermiculite. Vermiculite insulation was installed in residential and commercial structures. As a by-product, this insulation material contained tremolite asbestos and minerals (richterite and winchite) that cause asbestos-like illnesses. Inhalation of even small amounts of Libby vermiculite results in a wide array of debilitating, life-ending diseases. New Orleans’ “cleanup” created continuing casualties. Its homes and its public and commercial buildings were built with materials containing asbestos. Asbestos was added to plaster, electrical wiring was sheathed with asbestos cloth, asbestos shingles covered homes, asbestos insulation was installed in attics, and pipes were wrapped with asbestos insulation. Over 4,000 minerals are known to exist. Not one is safe to inhale. Drywall board, sheet rock, and drywall compounds are composites of minerals. The average home contains seven tons of these materials. Repeated exposure to earthen minerals found at construction sites or remodeling projects results in lung disease (asbestosis or silicosis) or cancer (brain, throat, breast, prostrate, stomach, uterine, lung, etc.). Bulldozing entire neighborhoods may make economic sense for a city government lacking cleanup funds. However, for those living downwind the impact on their health can be fatal or lead to decades of future illness. Inhaled minerals—particulates and fibers—adhere to lung tissue or pass through lung air sacs into the blood stream and lymph fluid. This fluid highway provides these mineral carcinogens access to every bodily organ and, for the pregnant, to their unborn children. Once foreign minerals invade your body, they are impossible to remove. Illness begins with exposure to a single fiber and you can NEVER reverse that exposure. As no cure exists, education and prevention are the keys to a long life without illness. Compare New York City’s 911 cleanup with that of New Orleans. Both cities “cleanup” efforts displaced millions of tons of carcinogenic “dust” with little thought devoted to the health consequences. For example, years after the collapse of the Twin Towers, building materials inhaled by first responders and rescue workers are being identified as the primary source of their illnesses and deaths. In both cities, government cleanup decisions were driven by a timetable to quickly restore the business sector and tax revenue base. Concern for citizens’ health was NOT a priority for either city. The Federal air-quality statute, the permissible exposure limit (PEL), was never intended to prevent illness. This artificial guideline was implemented to provide an illusion of health and safety. Although the PEL continues to be lowered, the number of diagnosed illnesses is rising for there is no safe level of mineral exposure. It doesn’t take a major disaster like New Orleans or New York to expose you to a mineral that causes illness. An action as simple as repairing damaged drywall in your home can place the entire household at risk. For a long life without illness, you must be vigilant of your surroundings and less dependent on governments to protect you and your family.Andrew Robbins is the author of It Took My Breath Away: One Man’s Experience May Save Your Life.