Off-roading may lead to asbestos exposure

According to a recent study, North Carolinians, like the rest of the country, using off-road vehicles (ORVs), such as all-terrain vehicles, four-wheel-drive vehicles and off-road motorcycles, may be exposed to naturally occurring asbestos fibers. When driving these ORVs, dust is often kicked-up which can put drivers at risk of asbestos exposure.

One study found that nearly 80 percent of ORV trails in the west and southwest parts of the United States are within 20 miles of substantial asbestos deposits. These states were found to have 655 mineral fiber occurrences, 241 of which were located within five miles of an ORV trail and 150 within one mile of an ORV trail, according to the study’s authors. The study, published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, identified 3,745 miles of trails that are in range of an asbestos deposit.

The study’s authors warn that inhaling asbestos fibers can lead to mesothelioma or other fatal asbestos-related diseases. Although occupational exposure is the most common, environmental exposure is also a concern.

Secondhand exposure is another concern. And, ORV users will carry asbestos fibers on their clothes, hair and skin, inadvertently exposing others. Children are at heightened risk of suffering health consequences from asbestos exposure not only because they are shorter and closer to the ground than adults, but also because their lungs are not fully developed.

Medical professionals suggest that public health initiatives should focus on increasing awareness of the risks of naturally occurring asbestos exposure, rather than the injuries and asbestos-related deaths, resulting from the use of ORVs. And, while this study focused on the other end of the country, it highlights that ORV trail riders should be more careful to protect themselves from exposure.

Source:, “Use of Off-Road Vehicles Tied to Asbestos Exposure,” Tim Povtak, Oct. 18, 2017