Naturally Occurring Asbestos Can Still Pose A Health Risk

While most of the harm commonly associated with asbestos exposure is related to old buildings with dated and deteriorating pipes and insulation, in some places asbestos still poses a threat in its natural form.

White Asbestos Deposits in Swift Creek, Washington

In Swift Creek, a type of asbestos called chrysotile is found in the water and riverbed sediment in high levels.  Chrysotile is used commercially in brake linings.  The asbestos comes from an eroding part of the Sumas Mountain near the base of a landslide.  As the area erodes, asbestos is continuously transferred from the mountain to the water and sediment.

Airborne asbestos fibers still pose a health risk when the naturally occurring asbestos is disturbed through both human and non-human activities.  Any activity that disturbs the ground, such as hiking, cycling, and horseback riding, may release asbestos into the air.  Although airborne asbestos poses a health risk, there are other factors that must be taken into account to determine the risk of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.  Some of these factors include:

-Frequency and length of asbestos exposure;

-Amount of asbestos person was exposed to;

-Size and type of asbestos person was exposed to; and

-Pre-existing lung conditions.

This naturally occurring asbestos is a point of concern for locals.  Swift Creek is dredged annually, and the asbestos is left on the banks of the creek.  The Whatcom County Council will soon vote to determine whether or not they should spend $180,000 to hire a consultant to explore storage options for the asbestos-laden sediment.  Earlier, the council reviewed a proposal to create traps in the steeper reaches and basins to capture large quantities of the hazardous sediment.

According to Roland Middleton, Whatcom County’s special projects manager, the concentration of asbestos is too low to warrant serious concern from the public.  He commented that “the amount that actually gets into the system is very small compared to the overall composition of the sediment” and also that the levels present are “certainly below…levels of great concern.”  However, the County does not want to take unnecessary risks, and thus will consider the issue on February 25, 2014.

Asbestos in Boulder City Region

Asbestos minerals have been found in dust and rock debris in an area ranging from Boulder City to the southeastern edge of the Las Vegas Valley.  This is the first instance of naturally occurring asbestos discovered in Clark County, Nevada.  A team of geologists led by Professor Brenda Buck from the University of Nevada Las Vegas are probing the area to gauge the extent of the asbestos threat.

“We have identified a hazard, but until more studies are done we do not know what the risk is, so we can’t tell you how concerned someone should be,” noted Buck.  Because asbestos has many forms, and also because naturally occurring asbestos is intermingled with other minerals, it is difficult to quickly assess the threat it poses.  The samples obtained by the geologists reveal at least one type of asbestos that can cause cancer, but they stressed that their findings are still mostly inconclusive.

Asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma, a serious illness affecting the lungs.  If you are in need of legal help related to asbestos exposure, please contact a Meso Lawyer as soon as possible.


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