According to the U.S. Geological Survey, erionite deposits have been found in a dozen western states.
Washington, DC (PRWEB) October 23, 2011
According to the website Surviving Mesothelioma, some of the nation’s top health and environmental officials have been meeting in Washington to discuss a little-known mineral that could put thousands of Americans at risk for mesothelioma.
Although the mineral, called erionite, had not received much press until this year, it is known to be a human carcinogen and is listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Group 1 Carcinogen.
According to the website Fairwarning.com (cited by the New York Times), the meeting in Washington represents the U.S. government’s attempt to take a more proactive approach to protecting the public against erionite than it did in protecting them from asbestos.
Erionite occurs in the soil where volcanic ash and rock have been weathered by alkaline water. Few people had heard of it before scientists began studying the cause of strikingly high mesothelioma rates in several Turkish villages where erionite has been used for decades as a building material. In these villages, deaths from mesothelioma can run as high as 50 percent of the population.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, erionite deposits have been found in a dozen western states and are most concentrated in California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Wyoming. Like asbestos, erionite poses no threat until it is disturbed. Unfortunately, hundreds of miles of roadways have been covered with erionite-laden gravel in North Dakota, raising serious concerns about the danger in the dust being constantly stirred up by vehicles.
The meeting at the National Institutes of Health brings together representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Heath, the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey. They are discussing the mesothelioma danger posed by erionite, as well and the risks associated with other hazardous minerals.
Like asbestos, erionite can lodge in the lungs when inhaled, triggering irritation and inflammation that can eventually lead to mesothelioma. The more concentrated and frequent the exposure, the higher the risk is thought to be. Although there have been no documented cases of erionite-related mesothelioma cases in the U.S., officials are bracing for future cases since mesothelioma can take 20 to 40 years to develop. Approximately 2,500 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year primarily as a result of asbestos exposure according to the National Institute of Health.