Wednesday, December 07, 2011

NIOSH Blog Discusses Erionite

erionite
Image by fluor_doublet via Flickr
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH) Science Blog posted the following article "Erionite: An Emerging North American Hazard."  The importance of this mineral is that in its fibrous form it is very similar to asbestos.  It is a naturally occurring mineral with deposits in many western states (on the blog post is a map indicating the areas) and disturbance of the fibers can generate airborne fibers with physical properties and health effects that are similar to asbestos.  Residents of Turkish villages where erionite-containing rock was used to construct homes, had a high risk for developing malignant mesothelioma.  The United States Geological Survey found that the erionite from the Cappadocian region of Turkey, North Dakota, and Oregon were chemically and morphologically similar.
Reading this blog post, is like reading an article on asbestos exposure or how to control asbestos exposure.  According to the post, the focus of potential exposure are road construction and maintenance workers that work with erionite-containing gravel used in road surfacing.  Recommendations by NIOSH are to treat erionite-containing gravel in the same way as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) treats asbestos-containing materials.  Train workers, control dust emissions and utilize wet methods, all sounding very familar to us in the asbestos industry, however currently their is no occupational exposure limit for erionite.  Which will make things difficult for those exposed to erionite-containing gravel.  Let's hope OSHA heeds NIOSH's recommendations
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