University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) researchers Brenda Buck and Rod Metcalf recently published an article related to Natural Occurring Asbestos in the Boulder City, Southeast Henderson, and the Colorado River Black Canyon areas. Naturally occurring asbestos occurs in rocks and soils as a result of natural geological processes and is found in many states west of the Rockies.
Currently, UNLV researchers have identified Actinolite asbestos in the rocks and soils however, there is still much that is unknown about the extent of the volcanic parent rock sources and amounts, as well as the potential health effects of these minerals. Additional research by UNLV is ongoing to learn more about all of these items.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has awarded UNLV a grant to continue studying the naturally occurring asbestos. The UNLV researchers plan to perform additional sampling in and around the aforementioned areas to determine the concentration of asbestos, conduct additional air monitoring and to work with health professionals from the University of Hawaii who will conduct health studies and assessments to determine the impact, if any to the public.
Until further studies are completed the public should not panic but be aware and exercise common sense towards minimizing dust emissions to the air. To minimize exposure it is important to keep soil disturbance in these areas to a minimum by limiting dust generating activities, to use water or other methods to prevent dust entrainment into the air and to stabilize soil, and avoid exposure to blowing dust. The public needs to be informed and advised that further study is necessary to fully evaluate the extent of natural asbestos occurrence in the area. The discovery of natural occurring asbestos is not unique to Southern Nevada. Many western states identified naturally occurring asbestos in the 90s and worked with federal, state, and local partners to advise the public on methods to prevent asbestos exposures.
Links to the report prepared by researchers Buck and Metcalf, as well as other published information regarding natural occurring asbestos are referenced below:
Naturally Occurring Asbestos: Potential for Human Exposure, Southern Nevada, USA
Asbestos and Health: Frequently Asked Questions
Limiting Environmental Exposure to Asbestos in Areas with Naturally Occurring Asbestos
Naturally Occurring Asbestos: Approaches for Reducing Exposure