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Officials recommend safety procedure for dangerous mineral

Last month, we wrote about a mineral that was recently proven to be much more carcinogenic to people who were exposed to it than asbestos and asbestos products. However, many people were, and still are unaware of the dangers of exposure to the mineral, causing an increase in mesothelioma diagnoses in the region in which it is prevalent.

The mineral is erionite, and it is a naturally occurring element that exists in soil and stone. It is usually found where volcanic debris such as rock and ash have been weathered by alkaline water. Much like asbestos, it is harmless until it is disturbed and the microscopic erionite fibers become airborne. Recent animal studies revealed that erionite is between 100 and 800 times more carcinogenic than asbestos, and it has been labeled "the most toxic naturally occurring fibrous material."

At the time of our last erionite blog post, federal officials were just starting to work on a response to the growing concern about the health effects on construction workers and residents who were being exposed to the mineral at alarmingly high rates. Now, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued a recommendation, advising employers to take a series of steps to protect workers from exposure to erionite fibers.

Although the steps recommended by NIOSH are not mandatory, the agency hopes that employers will act to protect the health of their employees, according to spokesman Fred Blosser. "From the evidence at hand," he said, "It's prudent and it's reasonable to approach controlling exposures as one would control asbestos."

Source: MSNBC, "U.S. warns workers on cancer-causing mineral erionite," Myron Levin, Nov. 22, 2011

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