MesotheliomaWeb.Org: New Danger Found in North Dakota

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A scientific study conducted in North Dakota found that a substance covering some roads in that state reacts with human lung tissue in very similar ways to asbestos. An investigation into the mineral erionite conducted in Turkey found that it could contribute to patients developing mesothelioma later in life, much like asbestos. The US Environmental Protection Agency conducted the study in the western regions of the state and found erionite on several surface roads in the area.


Ed Murphy, a geologist working for the state of North Dakota, has worked in the region for over thirty years. Reportedly, he alerted state and federal environmental agencies about the presence of erionite in 2006. He also mentioned that, during his work and travels around the state, he has been exposed to the potentially deadly mineral fibers. Mr. Murphy also remarked on the “long wait-and-see” period that comes with asbestos-related lung diseases. “I'll probably do a CT scan in five to ten years,” he told local reporters.


Mr. Murphy also spoke about participating in a study conducted by the University of Cincinnati on residents exposed to erionite. The medical research study found that workers who were exposed to erionite as part of their jobs – typically for gravel pit excavations or road construction – displayed symptoms consistent with those of asbestos exposure. The patients showed changes in the cellular structure to the lungs and the pleural mesothelium, as well as other forms of lung damage.


Scott Radig, the head of the waste management division of the state’s health department, reportedly said that the study examined those patients who were exposed to erionite at high levels on a consistent basis. However, he said that it did not examine residents who came into casual contact with the fibrous mineral. Mr. Radig also mentioned that the results of the study could lead to new rules reducing the level of erionite exposure in road construction projects, as well as an impetus for the state legislature to restrict the use of gravel containing erionite.


The North Dakota Transportation Department has already taken steps to ban erionite-laced gravel from its road construction projects. Several city and county jurisdictions are expected to follow suit. Kildeer, a city of less than a thousand people, has already removed gravel from a swimming pool parking lot, a Little League baseball field and other public areas. Efforts at the city, county and state levels will continue to reduce the risk of erionite exposure, but no federal regulations on the mineral currently exist as they do for asbestos.


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