Part 2: Should more steps be taken to prevent exposure to erionite?

Our previous post raised the concern over the lesser-known hazardous mineral erionite. A mineral present in several states across the U.S., erionite is thought to have some connection to the lung disease known as mesothelioma.

Erionite is similar to asbestos. While undisturbed, the mineral does not cause any harm or release any toxic agents into the air. But when it is disturbed, erionite fibers get into the air and can be inhaled by anyone in the area. Given the growing concern regarding erionite exposure, where has there been erionite use in the U.S.?

In one state, road crews used gravel tainted with erionite to pave hundreds of miles of roads. These roads are frequently traveled by school buses, visitors and other travelers. In another part of the country, erionite has permeated the soil in the area; workers who work with the land have been told to use protective gear to guard against exposure and inhalation.

It is important to note that there haven’t been any direct links between mesothelioma and erionite exposure. Even so, it can take years for mesothelioma to develop and even then doctors sometimes mistake it for another type of disease. But one examination of workers exposed to erionite showed that a worker had developed a respiratory illness due to fibrous particles thought to be erionite.

Researchers from a number of different prominent organizations and universities believe that awareness is the first step. However a well-known mesothelioma researcher believes that more needs to be done to prevent erionite-related mesothelioma cases in the future. Some states have already taken steps to reduce exposure to this potentially harmful mineral. But is it enough?

Source: MSNBC: “Health concerns grow over little-known mineral,” Myron Levin, Oct. 7, 2011