Mineral in Road Gravel May Cause Mesothelioma, A Type of Lung Cancer

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A new study reported in the July 25, 2011 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science concluded that those who travel down gravel roads may be exposed to erionite in the gravel from the resultant dust and if breathed daily are at increased risk of developing mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer. Erionite, a natural mineral, has fibers that are physically similar to asbestos.

Researchers compared erionite in a setting in the United States with Turkish villages where there are high rates of mesothelioma. The airborne concentrations of erionite, the chemical composition, and biological activity were measured. In mice studies, when injected with the mineral from the United States, inflammation and abnormal cell growth resulted and are precursors to mesothelioma. Analysis showed no difference in chemical composition or fiber size between the samples from North Dakota and the Turkish towns and the airborne levels were comparable. Based upon these results “there is concern for increased risk of mesothelioma in North Dakota” according to the researcher. He further commented that because of the long latency period between exposure to eriotite and contracting the disease and the relative recent history of mining erionite he anticipated an increase in this disease in the future. .

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