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Until about 30 years ago, the general consensus was that only exposure to asbestos caused mesothelioma.
But when an area of Turkey began experiencing an increased number of mesothelioma cases, researchers found that another mineral, besides asbestos, could be at fault — erionite. Because the mineral was abundant and easy to work with, natives began using it to build their homes.
As mesothelioma lawyers reported in July, researchers from Hawaii have traveled to parts of Turkey for years now to research erionite and determine how much of it is in the area and how it is linked to mesothelioma.
Some believe that erionite is actually more toxic than asbestos. But this isn’t an issue Turkey only is dealing with. According to a U.S. Geological Survey, erionite has been found in every state in the western United States, including North and South Dakota. And the mineral has been used in road paving across the United States, MSNBC reports.
In some villages that have been studied for their high mesothelioma rates, 40 to 50 percent of all deaths were caused by mesothelioma. Studies in animals show erionite is 100 to 800 times more toxic than asbestos.
While U.S. researchers had a flicker of interest researching the mineral in the 1980s, they have mainly moved on to other things. That has left this toxic mineral used in many projects throughout the country and sprayed across the western coast without warning to citizens who could be at risk.
While erionite-related medical incidents haven’t been widely reported, that doesn’t mean we’re all safe. Like asbestos-related mesothelioma, it takes sometimes 30 to 50 years to develop, so many people may have been exposed and are dealing with a potential disease without knowing it.
The MSNBC story reports that workers in North Dakota used the mineral in gravel to cover hundreds of miles of unpaved roads, parking lots and recreation sites, including areas that children frequent.
While erionite doesn’t get quite the same media exposure that asbestos does, it is important that citizens pay attention to this potentially dangerous mineral and one that has been linked to mesothelioma.
If asbestos can cause people to die prematurely and suffer awfully painful deaths, and researchers believe erionite is 100 to 800 times as dangerous, we must heed the warnings. And while western states have been tested, it’s possible that rural parts of the Eastern seaboard and Midwest have erionite present.
Like asbestos, this mineral can become very dangerous once it breaks up and becomes airborne. Government officials must not ignore this dangerous mineral. If for 30 years officials knew of the dangers and did nothing, residents shouldn’t be punished by getting sick and having no recourse.
Federal policies must be established to ban the use of eriointe, a step that has never been taken for asbestos. There is no good reason that this dangerous mineral should be used in the United States. We should stop the talk now so we’re not talking about how it killed us in the future.
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