Lack of Volunteers Delays Asbestos Study

A study on asbestos could end up facing delays, because officials cannot gather enough volunteers willing to have their lungs tested in the area. Officials are still searching for residents who will agree to undergo lung testing for the study, which was jointly created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and state officials in North Dakota. The study will require fifty participants who have been exposed to erionite, which is a mineral similar to asbestos. Asbestos is a fibrous material and if it is disturbed in any way, the microscopic fibers within the asbestos become airborne. Once breathed in by humans, they become lodged in the body’s soft tissues, where they may lie dormant for years only to erupt decades later potentially presenting a serious illness such as pleural disease, asbestosis, or the aggressive cancer, mesothelioma. Erionite, like asbestos, is a naturally occurring mineral which is found in rock. In North Dakota, erionite has been found in rock used for gravel in Dunn, Stark and Slope counties. In Turkey, the mineral has been linked to mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer previously associated only with asbestos exposure. Previous studies, which included animals, have shown that erionite and similar minerals may cause other cancers as well. Officials have studied this particular mineral for three years in North Dakota. However, further studies are needed in order to reach a clear conclusion. Any recommendations at this point would hold no ground. There have been few volunteers that have come forward, but many others are still required in order to aid the study. According to Mark Dihle, a scientist with the state Health Department’s air quality division, only about 10 people have signed up for the study.