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Should People Fear Asbestos Exposure Through Groundwater?

For centuries, numerous industries have relied on the naturally heat-resistant and fire-resistant properties of asbestos. As the carcinogenic properties associated with ingestion or inhalation of the asbestos fibers became well-known, consumers and manufacturers alike moved to abandon use of the material. Many organizations chose to create dumping sites for asbestos disposal. Unfortunately, as dumping sites were merely plowed over with fresh soil, the possibility of exposure continued.

Officials had hoped the positive-negative chemical interaction between the asbestos fibers and the surrounding soil would trap the materials, preventing any additional exposure. Unfortunately, dissolved organic matter (DOM) can potentially upset that balance and allow the fibers to slip through the soil and enter the groundwater system. One study found that several types of DOM, namely fulvic acid, humic acid and natural organic matter, enhanced the asbestos mobility through soil as conducted by simulated groundwater.

Does the EPA Test Groundwater for Contamination?

Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently does not test groundwater near the asbestos dumping and disposal sites. While they remain committed to ensuring cleanup and community safety protocols are guided by evolving data, there are no current plans to revise their methods and enhance their testing guidelines.

Can Contaminated Groundwater Lead To Deadly Exposure?

In its intact state, asbestos is generally a safe material. It is when the product deteriorates with age or is crushed by damage that the fibers are released. When an individual ingests or inhales the tiny asbestos fibers, it can lead to tissue damage, asbestosis, mesothelioma or lung cancer. Whether it is from drinking the contaminated water or inhaling the steam that rises from the boiling liquid, individuals are at risk for developing these catastrophic conditions.

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