While we typically hear about the dangers of asbestos when related to its inclusion in various man-made products, such as insulation and roofing materials, asbestos is a naturally occurring substance that can cause harm when people have frequent contact with the toxin.
Due to the concern over naturally occurring asbestos, one town in Washington state is initiating a study to determine how best to control the toxin. The town will use three different methods to control the substance, which has made its way into the waters of Swift Creek, causing concerns for nearby residents. The methods include:
- Building structures of steel and timber in the nearby canyon
- Constructing levees to help prevent flooding
- Building basins to prevent the toxin from traveling in flood waters
In 2008, a study in the region determined that the asbestos levels in the air were far above both state and federal guidelines. Naturally occurring asbestos is most commonly found in the western United States.
Naturally Occurring Asbestos in California
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, parts of California contain naturally occurring asbestos, which can pose risks of mesothelioma and other types of cancer for residents.
The EPA reports, "Asbestiform minerals occur naturally in rock and soil as the result of natural geologic processes, often in veins near earthquake faults in the coastal ranges and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains."
While the substance does not pose a threat when it remains contained in the soil, "natural weathering and human disturbance" can cause the substance to break down and become airborne.
Source: Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center, "Town Plans Study to Learn How to Control Naturally-Occurring Asbestos," August 9, 2012.
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