Officials in North Dakota studying asbestos-like mineral dust

19 Mar 2009 by under Events, News, Research/Treatment

I was recently sent a link to a story in USA Today about a new health study in North Dakota. According to the report, the North Dakota Department of Health, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the University of Cincinnati, are looking for North Dakota residents who have been exposed to erionite dust.

Erionite is a mineral with microscopic fibers similar to . Health officials are concerned that, like , the erionite fibers can lodge in the body and cause diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma.

The story notes that the erionite has been used extensively as gravel in road construction throughout western North Dakota. About 50 volunteers are needed for a study, with health officials focusing on those exposed to erionite dust for 20 years or more. Good candidates for participation in the study are those who worked on road crews or gravel pits.

People participating in the study will receive chest x-rays and CT scans, which will then be sent to a research team at the University of Cincinnati, which is overseeing the testing.

Erionite is positively linked to mesothelioma in Turkey, althought the type of erionite found in North Dakota is slightly different from that found in Turkey, according to the news story. However, both have microscopic fibers similar in length and width to those found in asbestos.

Erionite has been under investigation as a concern in North Dakota since 2006, when testing began in Dunn County, particularly in the area of the Kildeer Mountains. The state Health Department requested the EPA test the fibers, and it determined at that time that erionite fibers were similar to asbestos fibers, which can be easily inhaled if they are disturbed and become airborne.

For more information, read the Erionite Fact Sheet provided by the state Department of Health and EPA, or visit the Erionite Information page on the Department’s web site.

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