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Asbestos Exposure Warnings for Mining Operations

asbestos exposureIn some parts of the country, the economic climate has forced several communities to consider drastic actions to revive their job sectors. For some regions, this means turning to mining. This isn’t a decision to take lightly, because mining can wreck the local environment. Also, depending on what the local rock ores and soil are made of, the mining operations can potentially put the surrounding communities at risk of asbestos exposure.

Whenever these proposals pop up, it’s no wonder that local residents and experts often become worried. In Wisconsin, where a state Senate bill would approve the establishment of iron mines, one retired geologist wrote in to a local newspaper, explaining that these operations would be a mistake for a number of reasons – asbestos exposure being one of them.

Where is asbestos found?
One of the troubles of mining for isolated minerals like iron is that the miners have to tear through other ores and minerals to get to what they want. If this rock includes asbestos, that can mean trouble for the workers and residents.

Naturally occurring asbestos can be found in certain layers of rock that lie near fault zones. In these areas, asbestos can make up between 1 and 25 percent of the volume of rock and soil.

Mineral fibers usually don’t pose a threat to local people unless they’re disturbed, and a mining operation is certain to put people at risk.

Geologist questions the pros and cons
Neil Koch, a retired geologist, wrote an editorial for the Dunn County News in Wisconsin. He took issue with state Senate Bill 1, which would open the way for a pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin. Although such an industry would create more jobs and lead to the establishment of more retail businesses to accommodate economic growth, Koch said the benefits cannot last forever. In fact, he anticipates it becoming non-profitable at a certain point, and once the miners leave, the local residents will be left devastated.

For one thing, the mining operations are likely to rip asbestos fibers out of the soil, therefore increasing people’s risks of diseases such as malignant pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer. Also, the machinery and waste rock involved in mining would contaminate the local air and bodies of water with chemical hazards such as mercury and arsenic.

Koch said that he’d seen other mining towns go in this direction in the past, and he’s afraid that communities in Wisconsin won’t be able to recover once they’ve exhausted the land’s resources. He also pointed out that rates of mesothelioma tend to be higher in areas such as the former mining communities in northern Minnesota, compared to the rest of the country.

Keep soil and dirt out of your house
Researchers have known about the health risks associated with asbestos exposure since the early 20th century. Since then, the asbestos industry has fought scientists every step of the way in their efforts to protect the general public from asbestos-containing materials.

If you’re worried about how to keep asbestos-tainted soil and dust out of the house, there are several ways you can protect yourself from asbestos exposure:

  • Walk, run, bike or hike only on paved ground.
  • Make sure your children only play on ground that’s covered in mulch, grass, sand, wood chips, grass, asphalt or rubber.
  • Pave over any unpaved areas that surround your house.
  • Place doormats outside each entrance so that people and pets can wipe their feet before entering.
  • Keep your windows and doors closed on windy days.
  • Vacuum your carpet using only products that have HEPA filters.
  • Use only wet rags or mops to dust or clean non-carpeted areas.

It’s unfortunate that you, as the consumers, need to know how to protect yourself from unscrupulous and irresponsible businesses. If you think this is unfair too, let your lawmakers know how you feel about the dangers of asbestos exposure.

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