WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is urging individuals to use caution when returning to hurricane-damaged homes and buildings. EPA has 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 offers the following precautions to prevent injury or further damage:

  • 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; and

  • 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, go to www.fema.gov/regions/iii/env/debris.shtm.

    Publication date: 09/05/2005