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Did the Clemens Mansion fire expose the public to asbestos?

A recent four-alarm fire at the Clemens Mansion in north St. Louis now has those living near the historic building worried about possible asbestos exposure -- particularly since preliminary testing of debris near the site has indicated the presence of this dangerous, and often deadly, material.

According to a recent report by Fox 2 News, many of those living in the neighborhood are concerned about the air they and their families are breathing, with some even considering purchasing air masks.

Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been unable to collect and test samples from the site of the fire since the owner of the Clemens Mansion has been reluctant to give them access, citing safety concerns related to the current instable condition of the building.

However, that did not stop EPA agents from collecting samples by picking up debris in public areas, including the sidewalks and streets. And as it turns out, this was a good idea, especially since, according to a later Fox 2 News report, the EPA did find asbestos in some of the samples taken from debris found near the site of the fire.

Fortunately, as reported by CBS St. Louis, air-monitoring stations set up around the Clemens House have not yet detected any "airborne" asbestos, although, the EPA is still warning residents not to disturb the fire debris in any way until the area is cleaned up. They are also telling residents to avoid tracking any dust or debris into their homes.

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