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Naturally occurring asbestos stops several construction projects

Because of the health risks associated with asbestos, there are oftentimes a lot of precautions that are taken when it comes to cleanup methods. Areas where asbestos is present must be carefully quarantined to preserve air quality and special vacuums must be used to make sure asbestos fibers are removed completely. Those cleaning up the area must also make sure they are wearing the right safety equipment as well to mitigate exposure.

But what about if the asbestos is naturally occurring? With such a large area to cover, is it possible to quarantine the area effectively? What are the risks to the environment and residents nearby? Is there anything that can be done to reduce the risk of exposure?

It’s questions like this that may not only be raised here in Illinois but are being raised right now in Nevada where a naturally-occurring deposit of asbestos has been discovered just south of Henderson. Though residents in the area are in no immediate danger of asbestos exposure -- as the rock has not been disturbed yet -- it has halted plans for a highway bypass that could have kicked up a dangerous cloud of asbestos that could have posed a health risk to people in the area.

But as our questions above suggest, because the rock is naturally occurring and is part of the landscape, cleanup may be difficult. Also presenting another problem is the fact that individual states are left to create cleanup regulations based on guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. There are currently no federal regulations for handling naturally occurring asbestos.

Fortunately, the discovery of the asbestos did halt the construction of the highway, meaning construction workers did not get exposed to asbestos fibers kicked up by the construction process. It also meant that residents in the area were not exposed to these harmful fibers either.

Source: The Las Vegas Sun, “Asbestos proves to be a microscopic road block near Boulder City,” Danielle McCrea, July 20, 2014

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