Naturally Occurring Asbestos

Asbestos is known for causing serious occupational hazards. Those who currently work or have worked with the harmful mineral are aware of the dangers of inhaling airborne asbestos fibers from materials such as insulation, floor tiles, and fire-resistant drywall. What may be less well known is asbestos occurs naturally in the environment. The term asbestos encompasses a group of six fibrous minerals (tremolite, actinolite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite) that occur naturally in deposits around the world. Asbestos was mined for manufacture in the past, which is why it is now found commercially and industrially. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm warn the public of the dangers associated with naturally occurring asbestos that may be present in your area.

The management of naturally occurring asbestos is under EPA jurisdiction. Each asbestos situation is unique, but the EPA implements a combination of institutional controls, work practices, and engineering controls for each case to reduce any possible exposure to asbestos. Their approach depends on whether the land is or is going to be utilized, regional weather conditions, activities that may have disturbed the deposits, and accessibility of the asbestos.

Naturally occurring asbestos arises in rocks and soil as a result of natural geological processes. Natural weathering and human activities may disturb asbestos-bearing rock or soil and release mineral fibers into the air, which pose a greater potential for human exposure by inhalation. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has an ongoing project to map the locations of historical asbestos mines, former asbestos exploration prospects, and natural asbestos occurrences. At least 35 states have reported naturally occurring asbestos locations. To locate an area in a specific part of the country, begin by consulting the USGS reports (below) and contact a state geologist.

  • Eastern U.S.: http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2005/1189/
  • Central U.S.: http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2006/1211/
  • Rocky Mountain States: http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1182/
  • Southwestern U.S.: http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2008/1095/
  • California: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/cgs/minerals/hazardous_minerals/asbestos/ Pages/Index.aspx

The following are examples of engineering and work practices that reduce exposure to naturally occurring asbestos:

In excavation or utility work at construction projects:
Wet road surfaces with water using trucks, hoses, or sprinklers. Wet piles of excavated material and cover them with tarps, plastic sheeting, or other items. Continuously mist the work area. Install wind barriers around the work area. Clean or decontaminate equipment and vehicles to ensure that no equipment or workers track soil out of the work area. Wet the work area using a spray system attached directly to rock cutting or drilling equipment, such as a fine-mist sprayer or a variable-rate fogger nozzle. Excavate utility trenches to an adequate depth and back-fill them with clean soil so that future repair work will not need excavation. When transporting asbestos-containing materials, avoid overloading trucks; keep the material below the top of each truck compartment and cover material with a tarp. Limit personnel and vehicle access to the work area. Identify asbestos-containing areas with signs. Reduce driving, drilling and excavation speeds.

In unpaved and gravel roads:
Cover roads with safe rock, chemical sealants or dust suppressants, chip seals, limestone aggregate, petroleum sealants, or asphalt cement paving. Wet road surfaces with water. Install windbreaks or berms. Reduce driving speed. Avoid dusty areas, especially in windy conditions.

Around community areas:
Cover areas of rock and soil with clean soil, rock, vegetation, or other material. Pave over unpaved walkways, driveways, or roadways containing asbestos. Landscape areas with vegetation, such as asbestos-tolerant plants, and add a layer of organic mulch or asbestos-free soil. Water plants often until they are established to minimize erosion. Water garden areas before digging. Keep windows and doors closed on windy days and during periods when nearby rock or soil may be disturbed, such as during construction. Limit track-in by using entryway mats, and wipe down pets before they enter buildings to reduce the amount of soil tracked indoors. Allow children to play in outdoor areas only if the area has a ground covering, such as wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel, grass, asphalt, shredded rubber, or rubber mats. Relocate outdoor activities to areas that do not contain asbestos (walk, run, hike, and bike only on paved trails).

Asbestos lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm understand that this issue is complex and widespread. If you are concerned about naturally occurring asbestos in your area contact an experienced asbestos lung cancer attorney today for a free consultation.

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