The EPA has a long list of regulations and laws related to asbestos disposal. Recently, however, research has noted that large asbestos disposal sites may still pose a risk to public health. Larger asbestos disposal sites may be allowing asbestos to circulate in the surrounding area, becoming a health hazard.
While these disposal sites are following asbestos disposal laws, the large scale of the operations may make the original regulations seem inefficient.
What are the health risks associated with asbestos from a disposal site returning to the environment? Let’s take a look.
Asbestos & Water Supply
One of the primary concerns of asbestos particles and fibers escaping from overflowing disposal sites is water contamination. Asbestos is often buried at disposal sites to discourage fibers from becoming airborne. Recent research suggests that asbestos fibers may be able to escape buried containment through rain water and other natural sources moving them through the ground.
Older asbestos disposal sites are especially at risk, due to infrastructure decay or lack of funding. Disposal sites that are close to areas with large populations may eventually be faced with the task of quarantining a larger area to keep asbestos fibers from reaching water supply networks.
Asbestos Superfund Disposals
A superfund is a hazardous site that needs special care to clean up, as they contain hazardous waste that is detrimental to health. The EPA has a multi-step process to determine whether a site is a superfund and how to prioritize the cleanup order of established superfunds based on danger.
Asbestos superfunds are sites primarily containing asbestos that pose a danger to public health. Asbestos superfunds still waiting for cleanup pose a very serious risk to the surrounding areas. While asbestos disposal sites have precautions in place to contain asbestos, superfund sites do not. This means that something like a natural disaster or gas explosion could put a lot of asbestos into environmental circulation.
Asbestos Health Risks
There are two well-known conditions associated with high asbestos exposure:
These conditions are life-threatening and can lead to a lifetime of treatment or death. Asbestos exposure, however, can also affect those who are only exposed at low levels.
Asbestos is a carcinogen, which means it is known to cause cancer in humans. Fibers made of asbestos can also cause inflammation of the lungs when inhaled, leading to breathing issues. Longer exposure exacerbates these issues which can cause lifelong respiratory difficulties.
Other conditions associated with long-term asbestos exposure include:
- Lung, larynx, testicular, & ovarian cancer
- Possible links to stomach & colorectal cancer
- Pleural issues, which research suggests may lead to cancer
These are all serious health conditions, which is why asbestos escaping from quarantine & disposal sites is a very important topic. Proper disposal and containment of asbestos could avert any potential disasters related to escaped airborne asbestos fibers.
Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources
For more information on finding a local contractor to assist with asbestos information, remediation, or removal check the resources below:
Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Members
IECA Common Questions & Answers