Distribution of Fibrous Erionite in the United States and Implications For Human Health

Science Center Objects

Fibrous erionite, a zeolite mineral, has been designated as a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization and is believed to be the cause of extraordinarily high rates of malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos - related diseases in several villages in Central Turkey. A recent study by the University of Hawaii in collaboration with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in Dunn Count...

Fibrous erionite, a zeolite mineral, has been designated as a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization and is believed to be the cause of extraordinarily high rates of malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos - related diseases in several villages in Central Turkey. A recent study by the University of Hawaii in collaboration with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in Dunn County, North Dakota has demonstrated similar human exposures to fibrous erionite as those in found in Turkey. The source of these exposures is an erionite - bearing volcanic tuff that has been mined, crushed, and used to gravel hundreds of miles of roads. While elevated rates of mesothelioma are not yet apparent in North Dakota, a recent radiographic study of erionite exposed workers does indicate that exposure associated lung disease is occurring (U.S.E.P.A. and others, 2010). Fibrous erionite is also known to occur in many other western states where exposures could potentially be occurring during mining, road building and construction activities. For example, road crews in Montana and forest service workers in Custer National Forest have reportedly been exposed to natural erionite - bearing soils during various activities (P. Pierson, personal communication, 2010). Such erionite exposures have also been associated with cases of disease in North America (Rom and others, 1983; Ilgren and others, 2008). Based, in part, on the information above, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has just released a Science Blog (posted 11/22/2011) calling erionite "An emerging North American hazard" (NIOSH, 2011). Understanding the relationship of geological occurrences and the mineralogical nature of fibrous erionite in the context of human activity and disease incidence in the western United States is critical to land use planning, management of exposures, and reducing the risks of disease. Such information is essential in guiding future investigations and informing decisions regarding land use, development, and public health. This project will use spatial and statistical techniques to evaluate correlations, between data regarding morbidity and mortality for asbestos/erionite - related disease, fibrous zeolite mineral occurrences, permissive geologic terrains, human activity, and climatological factors. Additionally, findings will be used to generate additional hypotheses and focal areas for future earth sciences and public health research.

Principal Investigator(s):

Gregory P Meeker (Central Mineral Resources Team)

Aubrey Miller (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences)

Participant(s):

Vikas Kapil (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Christopher Weis (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences)

James Lockey (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Patrick H. Ryan (University of Cincinnati)

David N Weissman (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Karl J Ellefsen (Crustal Imaging and Characterization Team)

Suzette A Morman (Crustal Imaging and Characterization Team)

Geoffrey S Plumlee (Crustal Imaging and Characterization Team)

Carma A San Juan (Central Mineral Resources Team)

Bradley S Van Gosen (Central Mineral Resources Team)

Mary Ann Sens (University of North Dakota)

Brenda J Buck (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)

Francine Baumann (University of Hawaii Cancer Center)

Michele Carbone (University of Hawaii Cancer Center)