If you ever thought about how you need to protect yourself from asbestos exposure, you may recall the various products that contain the hazardous material. These include vermiculite and other items used for fireproofing or soundproofing. You may even think about people who are employed in high-risk jobs, such as construction workers, electricians or those who work around shipyards.
However, it can be easy to forget that asbestos is a mineral present in certain rocks. If left undisturbed, this naturally occurring asbestos does not pose a health risk to people, but careless human activity can increase the likelihood that asbestos fibers become airborne.
Ultramafic rock may contain asbestos
The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) states that asbestos can usually be found near fault zones or within ultramafic rock. Asbestos can make up anywhere between 1 percent and 25 percent of the mass of these rocks.
The soil around buildings that contain asbestos may also become contaminated during original construction or remodeling that disturbs in-place construction materials.
Human activity can increase the danger
As with most commercial and industrial products that contain asbestos, tainted soil and rocks do not pose risks to people if they are left intact. However, there are two ways in which naturally occurring asbestos can be disturbed: Through natural weathering and erosion, and human activity.
When it comes to the latter, mining efforts or actions that crush rocks can easily unleash asbestos fibers into the air. Also, construction that takes place around naturally occurring asbestos may disturb the mineral fibers.
One team of scientists from Nevada asserts that off-road-vehicle riding and other recreational activities is a major cause of disturbance in asbestos-tainted soil. This can be dangerous in light of increased urbanization, and underscores the need for better strategies for the prevention of exposure to asbestos.
Caution can minimize the risk
The ATSDR notes that not all ultramafic rocks contain asbestos. Environmental testing can help stakeholders determine whether they are at risk.
For example, laboratory service providers such as ASTM International have developed special tests that can analyze soil samples for the presence of asbestos. The company states that their test can be used for the purposes of property transfers and government cleanup sites.
At Kazan Law, we want to make sure that you know how to protect yourself and your family from all potential exposures. The ATSDR has several recommendations for people who are concerned about environmental asbestos:
- Walk, hike or bike only on trails that are paved.
- Play in outdoor areas only if they are covered by mulch, sand, grass, asphalt or rubber.
- Pave over any unpaved areas that are likely to be walked or driven upon.
- If you know that your garden contains asbestos-tainted soil, cover it with either asbestos-free soil or landscaping.
- Wet all areas of the garden before you begin any shoveling or digging.
- Remove shoes before entering the house in order to prevent bringing dirt in.
- Place doormats at all entrances to allow people to wipe their feet.
- If construction is taking place nearby, keep all doors or windows closed.
- If you have to drive over unpaved areas, roll up the windows and drive slowly.
- When dusting or cleaning the floors, use wet rags or wet mops.
- Vacuum carpeted areas with a product that contains a HEPA filter.