There are six different forms of asbestos that can be found naturally in soil and rocks around the world.Although asbestos is not dangerous when left undisturbed in the ground, mining or removal of the mineral can release asbestos fibers into the air, where environmental exposure can lead to serious illnesses such as malignant mesothelioma cancer and lung cancer.
Some types of asbestos, such as amosite and crocidolite, are usually found in their natural form in foreign countries like Africa.
However, environmental asbestos exposure in the United States is more common than many people understand, with rocky areas and mountain ranges being the typical spots of natural asbestos deposits. Large deposits of various forms of asbestos have been found in California, in the Rocky Mountains, in the Kootenai Mountains in and around Montana and also in other U.S. national parks and forests.
Unfortunately, many people unknowingly stir up naturally occurring asbestos while hiking and picnicking. Vacation activities such as four-wheeling through asbestos-contaminated hills can stir up the asbestos dust and cause inadvertent exposure. Once asbestos fibers are airborne, even walking through the area can lead to inhalation or ingestion of the fibers.
Although these fibers are natural, they are hardly harmless.
The six types of asbestos are labeled as carcinogens, and hundreds of other asbestiform minerals are thought to cause similar health problems. Illnesses that have been directly linked to environmental asbestos exposure include mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Some cases of other cancers, such as ovarian cancer and laryngeal cancer, also have been linked to asbestos exposure.
To help reduce the chance that you are environmentally exposed to asbestos, you should take extra precaution while engaging in any outdoors activities in areas where asbestos is a known threat.
These are areas include Coalinga, California, Sall Mountain, Georgia and Libby, Montana. Be sure to heed any asbestos warnings posted in state parks and recreational areas, and avoid disturbing any rock or mineral deposits where asbestos may occur.
Another environmental exposure to be aware of is that of a damaged or imploded building. We’ve all seen on TV: hotels, office towers, parking garages, old sports arenas and civic center’s get imploded. One minute they are there, 30 seconds later they have disappeared in a carefully engineered pile of rubble.
All good, except: Old buildings have asbestos in them, and dust from these implosions is not good to breathe in.
The safety lesson, then, is not to be a spectator for or cheerleader of these implosions and also to stay away from the rubble afterward. Unless the building was abated before it was ruined, asbestos fibers are in the air and can be breathed in.