Risks Associated With Naturally Occurring Asbestos
“Most of us, when we think of asbestos, think of the insulation in old buildings up for demolition. But asbestos fibers are naturally occurring minerals, and their natural habitats are deposits that meander all over the U.S., concentrated especially in the West. When wind blows asbestos off the hills, exactly how dangerous is it? … In the past, when we still used asbestos, the fibrous minerals were mined from large deposits in the West. In Libby, Montana, the site of a former asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mine, one-fifth of the residents ended up with asbestos-related lung disease. The long, skinny shape of asbestos fibers means they are easily lodged in the lungs, and a type of cancer called mesothelioma is often associated with asbestos exposure” (Gizmodo). This is why so many people are concerned about exposure to asbestos and why more people are beginning to look at possible health risks associated with naturally occurring asbestos.
Natural Asbestos in the Air
Airborne asbestos fibers are still a major risk to people’s health and when the naturally occurring asbestos gets disturbed in some way it can be released into the air where it can be breathed in. Any activity that disturbs the ground may release asbestos into the air and common human activities include hiking, biking, mountain climbing, camping, horseback riding, gardening, and building projects. Although airborne asbestos poses a health risk, there are other factors that must be taken into account before assuming that the smallest exposure will result in mesothelioma or other type of cancer. Some of these factors include:
-Frequency and duration of the exposure;
-Amount of asbestos the individual is exposed to;
-Size and type of asbestos involved;
-Pre-existing lung and other health conditions; and
-Place of entry into the body.
How to Protect Yourself Form Exposure to Natural Asbestos
If asbestos believed to present in an area you live or work or visit, there are several things you can do to reduce exposure.
Remove shoes and socks before entering the home to prevent tracking in contaminated soil.
Before pets come into the home wipe their paws and fur with a clean damp rag.
Close windows and doors when the wind is blowing and it is very dusty outside.
Use wet rags to dust to reduce stirring up dust that may have small asbestos particles in them.
If possible, use a HEPA vacuum and a HEPA air filter in your home.
Pave walkways and driveways so asbestos particles don’t get into your home or vehicle.
Use water, not a blower, to clear off driveways and walkways.
In the garden:
Cover your garden and yard with asbestos-free soil or landscape covering.
Wet the soil in the garden before you start to dig to keep particles from flying around.
Use protective clothing and gear such as gloves, pants, boots, and respirator if necessary.
Keep visitors out of the area when working- children and pets especially.
Wash equipment and vehicles used in a possible asbestos area once you have finished.
If possible, shower and change clothes immediately and don’t wash them with other clothes.
Out and about:
While enjoying nature try to walk, run, hike, and bike on paved trails as much as possible.
Drive slowly on dirt and gravel roads and keep windows and vents closed in the car.
Play in outdoor areas that have ground coverings of some kind as much as possible.
Wash hands- even with just clean water- before eating when you are outside.
With a little precaution you can help minimize your exposure to naturally occurring asbestos and thus limit the health risk associated with this kind of exposure.