In Shamokin, Pennsylvania, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and town officials have launched an investigation into possible asbestos contamination at a local demolition site. Based on the chance that the site may, indeed, contain toxic asbestos, asbestos abatement or removal specialists are being prepared to step in.
While the investigations are in progress, the site is being watered down. This is a common practice designed to keep harmful asbestos dust from becoming airborne and harming nearby residents.
An independent contractor who has a history of working with asbestos abatement, Matt Stevens, has also collected samples from the site in question so that he may conduct his own testing for asbestos. According to Stevens, the site shows substantial asbestos contamination. What’s more, the asbestos, some of which came from water pipe insulation, is “friable”, meaning that it is able to become airborne.
For now, the EPA claims that the asbestos contained in the site is not enough to harm locals or present any significant health threat. According to EPA spokesperson Donna Heron, the risk of asbestos on the site is “not something that residents really should be concerned about.”
However, in reference to the most notorious asbestos contamination site in the United States, Libby, Montana, the EPA has gone on record stating that even trace amounts of asbestos can cause health threats.
Asbestos exposure has been definitively linked to a number of serious health conditions, including mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer that is caused solely by exposure to the toxic mineral. Mesothelioma affects the tissues that line internal organs such as the lungs, the heart, and the abdominal cavity. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of this disease, which is diagnosed in roughly 3,000 Americans each year. The average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is only 18 months after diagnosis.