Mississippi Park Closes 30 Acres Due to Asbestos

A popular recreation destination on Horn Island, Mississippi closed over 30 acres of land because of asbestos contamination. The National Park Service reports that authorities detected the hazardous material on old tiles in a former U.S. Army biological testing site that was active in the 1940s. The contamination was found on the northwestern shore of Horn Island known as “the chimney,” along with trace presence of the chemical agent commonly known as mustard gas.

Exposure to asbestos increases risk of developing disease, particularly mesothelioma and lung cancer, though signs of such illnesses may not be present for several years after initial contact. If you suspect development of harmful health effects from asbestos, contact a skilled asbestos attorney for a free consultation.

The NPS is assembling a team of multi-disciplined experts and keeping the public informed of laboratory findings and clean-up procedures. The findings came as the result of a request from British Petroleum, who requested a list of potential chemical and biological hazards in the area. BP along with the Gulf of Mexico Research Institute assembled a cleanup team on Horn Island as part of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response. An initial review of the park’s historical records found potential contaminants which include: botulinum toxin, ricin, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), pesticides, polychlorina ted biphenyls (PCB), dioxins and furans, as well as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) metals (silver, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, mercury, lead, and selenium).

The military facility was active during World War II and was decommissioned in the 1960s.The National Park Service acquired the island from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1971 and it was incorporated into Gulf Islands National Seashore. Containers of mustard gas may have been deposited in the island’s Big Lagoon. Sulfur mustard can harm you depending on how much of the chemical you were exposed to and for how long. Sulfur mustard may make your eyes burn, your eyelids swell, your eyes to blink, and your skin to burn and blister within a few days. If you breathe it, sulfur mustard can cause coughing, bronchitis, and long-term respiratory disease. Sulfur mustard may also affect reproduction. Sulfur mustard is a known carcinogen and can cause cancer in your airways, lungs, skin, and maybe other areas of your body later in life. Some of the chemicals that are formed when sulfur mustard is burned or spilled into water can also be irritating to the skin. The United States is in the process of destroying all known remaining stockpiles of mustard gas.

Asbestos is the name given to six naturally occurring fibrous minerals with high tensile strength, the ability to be woven, and resistance to heat and most chemicals. Because of these properties, asbestos fibers have been used in a wide range of manufactured goods, including roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper and cement products, textiles, coatings, and friction products such as automobile clutch, brake and transmission parts. The forms of asbestos are chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite and the variety of asbestos found on Horn Island is chrysotile.

The site cleanup may take several years to complete, and the 30 acres of the Island will be closed indefinitely. The remainder of the 14-mile long barrier island is still open to the public for recreation. Warning signs are posted 1,000 feet from the chimney site to ensure public safety. Our mesothelioma lawyers caution the public to be wary of any carcinogenic exposure, particularly because of the deteriorated condition of the chimney site, which heightens the danger of asbestos fibers releasing into the air. Though this is unrelated to the 2009 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, there is a history of chronic chemical exposure in Mississippi, and Pintas & Mullins Law Firm cautions the Ocean Springs community of toxic chemicals being released into the environment and potentially causing dangerous illness.

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