After the dangers of asbestos could no longer be denied by its manufacturers, disposal of discarded asbestos-based products or supplies often included burying it underground. Since mesothelioma is the most prevalent side-effect of asbestos exposure, and it is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, it was believed that piling feet of dirt, soil, and sand atop it would prevent it from causing further harm. A new study suggests this is not the case.
Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of San Diego studied asbestos waste piles to see how the carcinogenic material was interacting with the surrounding soil, and if burying it was an effective option. They soon discovered that asbestos fibers could move through the ground due to organic acid interaction. Many naturally-occurring sources create organic acid, such as different plants, bacteria, or fungi.
As the organic acids influence the microscopic asbestos fibers into motion, it can be pushed deeper into groundwater sources. Once there, it contaminates the water and may be carried away even further. Eventually, it could reach public water sources and cause significant health risks.
New Disposal Methods May Be Necessary
Back in 1977, the Environmental Protection Agency claimed that asbestos simply could not move through soil to a degree that could ever cause harm. Now that new evidence is emerging in the contrary, new ways to dispose of discarded asbestos must be explored. Digging up existing soil-capped asbestos piles could release countless particles into the air, spreading the danger, and burning asbestos in controlled facilities is expensive.
Researchers suggested that taking steps to adjust the chemical compounds in the soil used to cap asbestos could work. Anything that absorbs the organic acids before they can affect the asbestos fibers may be beneficial. Keeping grasses alive atop the caps could produce the same effect, locking asbestos in place.
At this point, it is not known if asbestos movement in the soil has been the direct cause of any illnesses. However, the possibility is real enough to warrant more research and immediate action.
Have you or a loved one fallen ill due to asbestos exposure or been diagnosed with mesothelioma? Contact Kaiser Gornick, LLP today for a free consultation with our San Francisco mesothelioma attorneys. We also accept cases across the country.