Mesothelioma Fears Leads Army Corps of Engineers to Nix Fairgrounds for COVID-19 Field Hospital

Fear of future mesothelioma diagnoses has led the Army Corps of Engineers to scrap plans for housing an emergency medical unit at the Big Fresno Fair in Fresno, California after an inspection revealed both asbestos and lead paint present in the facility’s walls. Exposure to either can lead to significant illnesses in the future, with asbestos fibers presenting the greatest danger because the material can break down into microscopic particles when it is disturbed, those can easily be inhaled or ingested.

Site Rejection Over Mesothelioma Fears Frustrates County Officials

County officials have expressed frustration over the Corps of Engineers’ decision, indicating that though they understand that malignant mesothelioma is a serious illness, the site has been approved for emergency purposes uses for years. 

“That’s kind of infuriating because we promised not to move any walls and not to let anyone chew on the paint. It really came down to that piece,” EMS coordinator Dan Lynch said. “The Fresno fairgrounds is a beautiful facility and I want to make sure that’s stated. If we set up our own county disaster care center, we’re putting it at the fairgrounds.”

Experts Agree That Asbestos Exposure Today Could Lead to Mesothelioma in the Future

Though Lynch’s frustration is based on the need for hospital beds, public health experts agree with the decision made by the Corps, pointing out that any disruption of the materials caused by retrofitting the building could lead to patients inhaling fibers that could eventually lead to mesothelioma diagnoses decades from now. Marilyn Howarth, a public health professor at the University of Pennsylvania said, “It would be unfortunate to save someone from dying of COVID-19 and have them develop mesothelioma 25 years from now,” she said.

Efforts to protect the public from coronavirus should not outweigh efforts to prevent people from future diagnoses of mesothelioma. For information about this rare asbestos-related disease and the options available to you if you are diagnosed with it, contact the Patient Advocates at at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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