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New cause of mesothelioma may be right outside your front door

We have long discussed the dangers that asbestos exposure presents. For several years, it has been known that mesothelioma is caused by contact with and prolonged exposure to the toxic substance, but there may be additional causes. Recent studies have shown that another fibrous material may lead to the lung disease as well.

Erionite is a substance that is similar to asbestos. It is typically found in rocks near volcanic ash, though it can also be present in the gravel that paves roads. Studies show that erionite has been found in gravel roads all across the country. Vehicles that travel on these roads may be kicking up the toxic dust which can then be ingested or inhaled by unassuming bystanders.

We have explored the possible dangers of erionite exposure some time ago, but there were no concrete connections made between the fiber and mesothelioma. However, a recent study was done at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center that may confirm a connection.

The study examined erionite from gravel roads found in North Dakota. Mice were injected with the substance and observed. The results showed that the mice developed the same symptoms as those associated with mesothelioma. Their lungs were inflamed and there was abnormal cell growth, which are two early indicators of mesothelioma. Other symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath and wheezing, fatigue, unexplained weight loss and chest pains.

It is likely that research into the effects of erionite exposure will continue. In the meantime, it is important for people to be aware of the dangerous material. Hopefully, with additional research, it will be easier for average people to identify, avoid or safely remove any traces of erionite.

Source: News4Jax, "New research links road dust to mesothelioma," Ed Greenberger, March 7, 2012

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