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Wednesday, January 03, 2024

On New Year's Day, sadly central Japan was struck by a powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake, leaving a trail of destruction, collapsed buildings, fires, and triggering tsunami alerts across the region.

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On New Year's Day, sadly central Japan was struck by a powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake, leaving a trail of destruction, collapsed buildings, fires, and triggering tsunami alerts across the region.

The immediate aftermath of such disasters poses significant threats to human life and infrastructure, but the hidden dangers lie in the secondary exposure risks during the cleanup process.

I’ve personally been involved in large scale clean ups after disasters using my expertise in containing solid hazardous materials, including the debris clean up from the Fukushima, nuclear disaster in Japan over a decade ago.

This blog explores the environmental hazards associated with debris left behind after building collapses and how green coatings can play a crucial role in preventing secondary exposure.

Immediate and Secondary Exposure Risks:

When an earthquake of this magnitude hits, buildings crumble, and their contents become a chaotic mess of debris.

The immediate exposure to hazards during the earthquake is well-documented, but the long-term risks emerge during the cleanup phase.

The debris often contains hazardous materials such as heavy metals (antimony, chromium, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc) and electronic waste (from computers, monitors, batteries), as well as toxic substances like paints, PCBs, and asbestos.

The Threat of Airborne Contamination:

As the cleanup efforts begin, improperly managed debris poses a significant threat of airborne contamination, leading to what is known as secondary exposure.

When the hazardous materials are not safely wet down or contained, they become airborne, spreading toxicity in the vicinity.

This poses a severe risk to those involved in the cleanup operation, nearby residents, and even people in surrounding neighborhoods.

The Role of Green Coatings in Disaster Recovery:

Green coatings act as a vital tool in disaster recovery by providing a protective barrier against the release of hazardous materials during cleanup.

These coatings, when applied to surfaces, serve as a wetting and locking agent, effectively containing the debris and preventing the dispersion of harmful substances into the air.

Benefits of Green Coatings:

1. Containment: Green coatings help to bind hazardous materials, keeping them in place and preventing their release into the air.

2. Stabilization: By encapsulating the debris, these coatings stabilize the contaminants, reducing the risk of further environmental spread.

3. Environmentally Friendly: True to their name, green coatings are environmentally friendly, non-toxic, biodegradable and sustainable, minimizing the impact on the ecosystem.

Preventing Secondary Exposure:

To prevent secondary exposure, it is crucial to prioritize the application of green coatings during the initial stages of the cleanup process.

This ensures that the hazardous debris remains safely contained until it can be properly removed and disposed of.
Authorities and cleanup crews must be equipped with the knowledge and resources to utilize these coatings effectively.


Japan's recent earthquake serves as a stark reminder of the dual threats posed by immediate and secondary exposure in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Implementing preventive measures, such as the application of green coatings, can significantly mitigate the risks associated with airborne contamination during cleanup efforts.

As we witness the resilience of communities in the face of adversity, let us also recognize the importance of sustainable practices in rebuilding a safer and healthier environment.

“It’s not enough that we do our best. Sometimes we have to do what’s required.” Winston Churchill

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