Sometimes Asbestos Exposure is Not as Hazardous As It Seems

A recent asbestos discovery in the soil at Islip, New York has the town members on high alert. However, the asbestos discovered in the soil most likely will not present the health hazards that asbestos-exposure usually holds. Concerns about asbestos-exposure must focus on the location, amount and type of asbestos found because all factors can play a huge role in determining whether exposure will be hazardous to humans.

The Asbestos Discovery at Islip, New York

The tiny town of Islip, New York had quite a scare when asbestos was discovered at two different locations within its limits. These two sites were the Roberto Clemente Park and a private location in central Islip. There is some confusion about whether the asbestos arrived in the soil via construction, or if different locations in Islip have been illegally used as asbestos-containing material dumping grounds. Though asbestos was discovered in the soil, public officials are somewhat confident that actual harmful asbestos exposure could not have occurred. This is because air quality tests were conducted at both sites, and asbestos was not discovered in the air, which would mean that it would be unlikely that asbestos exposure could occur via inhalation at the site. The investigators maintained all of the typical procedures that must be followed when testing for asbestos: they wore the requisite protective gear and had monitors attached to their bodies in order to collect the tested air samples.

When Asbestos Exposure Is Not As Toxic As It Seems

Society’s hypersensitivity to asbestos exposure has made it so that the even the potential presence of asbestos can result in a complete quarantine of a site. However, the officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have stated that asbestos being present in the soil alone is not enough to raise concern of asbestos exposure. Problems arise when asbestos fibers are present in the air because they can be inhaled. Asbestos found in soil is only a risk depending on where the asbestos is located. For example, if asbestos was found on the surface of the soil, it would be more likely to be able to enter the air and to be inhaled, than if the asbestos was buried deep under the surface of the soil. It would only take a strong wind to blow surface-sitting asbestos into the air, while asbestos under the surface would have a harder time travelling up above the surface of the soil. Furthermore, surface asbestos could be run over or stepped on, especially if found at a park like Roberto Clemente Park, and then transported to other locations where a person could come directly in contact with the soil-asbestos while taking off or otherwise touching their shoe.

The type of asbestos discovered also plays a big role in whether an asbestos hazard exists. Since the 1990s the type of asbestos used in construction has shifted from the dangerous amphibole asbestos to chrysotile asbestos, which are not nearly as dangerous. The harm with coming into contact with asbestos-containing products only occurs when you inhale asbestos fibers. Even if you come in contact with construction products that contain asbestos, the mineral may be bound tightly to tiles, shingles and other materials. In this situation the asbestos is completely intact and not a fiber. When this is the case you would be unable to inhale this asbestos non-fiber and thus would not be at risk for hazardous asbestos exposure.

Finally, the amount of asbestos in the soil will determine whether asbestos exposure is hazardous. Asbestos related diseases are seen more often in people with consistent exposure to large amounts of asbestos. Thus, one day at a park with asbestos in the soil will unlikely result in lasting health complications, especially if only trace amounts are present.
Not all asbestos exposure leads to asbestosis, mesothelioma and other serious illnesses. It depends on where the asbestos was discovered, how much is discovered, and the type of asbestos. Contact an asbestos attorney today to answer any questions you have about asbestos exposure.


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