Today, asbestos is known largely as an outdated and dangerous substance. For most people, asbestos was the material used for insulation in homes, roofs on old buildings, and in a number of other industrial ways. Although asbestos fibers are certainly the harmful material we’ve all come to know, they are also naturally occurring minerals which, according to some geologists and experts, can be quite dangerous in their natural form.
Asbestos minerals exist in deposits across the United States, with the highest concentrations in the Western part of the country. Geologists and other scientists are concerned that naturally occurring asbestos deposits can pose a risk to nearby residents. In places like Libby, Montana, for example, which is home to a former asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mine, one out of five of the residents were diagnosed with asbestos-related lung disease.
In Nevada, geologists are questioning whether asbestos deposits in the state – which are unmined – could be harming local residents. However, scientists have received some opposition from the state’s health department, which restricted access to the state cancer registry after an epidemiologist conducted a preliminary analysis and found an unusual number of mesothelioma cases. The health department also reported the results of their own analysis, finding that the asbestos deposits posed no danger.
Ultimately, we know that asbestos fibers are dangerous and the cause of many tragic diseases, including mesothelioma. With the help of scientific studies and statistics, we also know that naturally occurring asbestos is more common than most may think – and that there appears to be a correlation between deposits and rates of mesothelioma. Given the risks involved, experts and government agencies should be working together to find answers, not be gridlocked in debate.