Illinois Beach Park Washes Asbestos Ashore

The Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park, located in Zion, Illinois, is reported to have levels of asbestos in beach sands. The University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) Center for Excellence in Environmental Health published an evaluation of the Park and compared the results to other beaches on the shores of Lake Michigan. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm warn the public that exposure to asbestos may result in the development of fatal diseases, such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.

The Illinois Beach State Park encompasses 4,160 acres and is located on the boarder of Illinois and Wisconsin. The 6.5 mile park receives about 1.7 million visitors per year looking for recreational activities such as swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, camping, and bicycling. An estimated 129 homes used to be located on the property, but have since been destroyed by erosion and crumbled into Lake Michigan. These past lakefront homes are one source of asbestos contamination – eroding pipes, siding, and roofing have been found washed up along the beach and tested positive for asbestos fibers. Another potential source of asbestos contamination is the Johns-Manville manufacturing plan just south of the Park. The plant was active from 1922-1988 (the height of asbestos consumption in the U.S. was in the 1960s and 70s), and manufactured roofing, flooring, wall and insulation products. Asbestos was undoubtedly used in the production of many of these materials. The Johns-Manville property was placed on the National Priorities List in 1983.

An additional possible source is a former rifle range in the Camp Logan area. The rifle range was built for the 1959 Pan American games and contained a large berm built with factory waste material donated by Johns-Manville. Wave action may have destroyed this berm that also potentially contained ACM.

In 2000, the Illinois Department of Public Health published an assessment of the Park. It was recommended that warning signs and flyers be posted to alert the public about the possible presence of asbestos materials on the beach, and continuation of periodic beach inspection of periodic beach inspection and asbestos containing material removal.

Current assessment methodology recommends that activity-based sampling be performed to assess potential exposure levels. This Exposure Investigation was conducted with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to estimate potential exposure levels to individuals who utilize the beach areas at IBSP by measuring exposure during simulated activities.

The activities simulated at the beaches at pose no apparent public hazard, although an activist group has called for the closure of the park to protect public health. The IDNR should continue efforts to remove asbestos containing materials from the beach and continue educational activities to help visitors identify and avoid asbestos containing material. As an additional precaution to reduce releases during any beach maintenance activities (i.e., surface grading), intensive disturbances of the sand should be conducted during conditions when the sand surface is wet or when the beach area being maintained is closed to the public.

It was recommended by the EPA that additional sampling be conducted using a scenario that may reflect intensive recreational activities, to better characterize actual exposures.
Asbestos-containing material is still washing up onshore, which indicates that source material is still in the lake. Park users should report the location of specific areas where asbestos-containing material is found to staff. Individuals should not disturb the material or attempt to discard it on their own.

Infants and children may be more vulnerable than adults to exposure in communities faced with environmental contamination. Children could be especially vulnerable to asbestos exposures due to the following factors:

  • Children are more likely to disturb soil or indoor dust while playing
  • Children are closer to the ground and more likely to breathe contaminated soil or dust
  • Children could be more at risk than people exposed later in life because of the long latency period between exposure and onset of asbestos-related respiratory disease.

Pintas & Mullins Law Firm want to make the public aware of the danger of asbestos-containing materials on the shores of the Illinois Beach State Park. Direct contact with asbestos materials may result in serious and life-threatening illnesses. If you suspect exposure of any kind, contact an asbestos attorney immediately for a free legal consultation.

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