Thursday, May 05, 2005


In California, of course. It is only heavy industrial exposure to asbestos that has ever been shown to be harmful. You are far more likely to die from eating too many hamburgers. There is only one interesting aspect of the findings below: Is the incidence of mesothelioma higher in that area? It should be easily checkable and the asbestos has been there forever so any effects should have shown up by now. The silence about that tells its own story, I think: Another case of "the dog that didn't bark" being the key fact

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that everyday recreation at El Dorado Hills' busiest park and nearby schools can significantly elevate exposure to a particularly toxic kind of asbestos, according to air test results obtained by The Bee. Simply bicycling the nature trail through Community Park, the recreational hub of the family-oriented foothills community, can kick up the naturally occurring asbestos fibers in concentrations as much as 43 times higher than if there were no activity in the area, the EPA tests showed. Playing baseball can elevate the asbestos level 22 times. The hazardous exposure can be raised multiple times even for those too small to swing a bat or ride a bike. Air samplers at the toddlers' playground measured a tenfold increase in asbestos concentration as EPA technicians played on the jungle gym and bounced balls. Not even pavement was a safe harbor. Playing basketball increased the airborne asbestos concentrations three to four times at Jackson Elementary and Rolling Hills Middle School, the data showed. The outdoor courts apparently were covered with the invisible fibers, deposited by wind or the soles of sneakers, EPA officials said.

The EPA playgrounds study, scheduled for release today, is the first in seven years of foothills asbestos investigations to show that the threat is not limited to the obvious. The studies stem from a 1998 Sacramento Bee investigation that found home builders and gravel miners in fast-developing western El Dorado County creating a potential public health hazard by digging into asbestos veins and leaving the fibrous minerals exposed. Tests commissioned by The Bee found high concentrations of a particularly hazardous kind of asbestos in settled dust inside homes and in the dust raised by traffic on rural roads graveled with serpentine, a native rock that hosts the asbestos. But the new data suggest the danger extends to areas where there are no telltale signs, to neighborhood schools, parks, and even homes.

EPA officials said they found no visible signs of asbestos in the rock outcrops at Community Park, yet relatively high concentrations of the mineral showed up in air samples wherever EPA technicians kicked up dust. The study also breaks ground by tying the asbestos hazard not to disturbances from bulldozers and graders, but to the individual activities of children and adults.

County and state air pollution regulators have adopted measures to reduce exposure to asbestos released by development, such as wetting down construction sites to keep the minerals' invisible fibers from going airborne. But results from the playgrounds air tests suggest the protective strategies must be broader and applied to everyday activities: knowing, for example, what's in your neighborhood soil when planting gardens or installing backyard pools; learning when and where to use leaf blowers; re-routing the morning jog to avoid dust. "The business interests, the schools, the community service providers, the county government and the public all need to get involved in how to address this issue," said Dan Meer, a top EPA official who supervised the study. "It's similar to living in earthquake country," Meer said. "There are certain things government does and certain things individuals do, and they all come together to try to reduce the risk."

For many in El Dorado Hills, population 31,000, the reports of toxic contamination in their midst have seemed unreal or overblown. The community, after all, is home to gracious homes with views of Folsom Lake and the Sierra, not factories and railyards. But by quantifying the asbestos exposures in the community's green belts, the EPA report makes the geologic hazard more difficult to discount. It also gives the community the kinds of information needed to devise precautions. The threat at Community Park, frequented by hundreds of children daily, could be abated significantly, for example, by replacing tainted dirt in the baseball diamonds with clean fill or wetting the infields more often, Meer said. Asbestos was found in almost all of the more than 400 air samples taken from Oct. 1 through Oct. 11 at the park and schools, Meer said.

Scientists are not sure exactly how non-occupational asbestos exposures such as those in the foothills translate into health risks..... But the study doesn't answer nagging questions: Exactly how do the exposures affect human health? How much is too much? Risk-assessment experts said the tools they commonly use to predict risk of disease from toxic substances don't work for exposure to asbestos in the general environment. ....

Vicki Summers, who lives in a large custom-built home in El Dorado Hills, said she has been surfing the Internet and calling environmental officials for advice. She recently started requiring family and visitors to remove their shoes at the door to prevent them from tracking in asbestos fibers. She plans to remove carpeting because vacuuming can re-suspend fibers. And she has switched from vacuuming to mopping hardwood floors to avoid churning up fibers into the air. Still, Summers said she worries whether she's doing enough to keep her family safe. "So do I throw my mop away after every cleanup?" she asked. "What kind of mop should I use?" ......

Jon Morgan, the county's chief environmental enforcer, had a different reaction to the EPA news. Morgan, who oversees asbestos dust-control laws for the county, slammed the EPA's study as sloppy and alarmist given uncertainties about the actual health risks from this type of exposure. He issued a press release in late March warning that the test results "may scare the daylights out of every man, woman and child in western El Dorado County." And he advised residents to tune in to his cable TV presentation on the asbestos hazard. "To be more informed, watch the Foothill 7 production of Comcast television throughout the month of April for an interview with Jon Morgan," the release said. ......

The EPA is the third public health agency since early April to complete a study of the foothills hazard. The state Department of Toxic Substances Control on April 8 released a study showing that traffic on rural roads covered with asbestos-containing gravel significantly raises the exposure for residents living within at least 300 feet. The agency advised residents to pave the serpentine-gravel roads and driveways.

More here


Review of "America's War on "Carcinogens": Reassessing the Use of Animal Tests to Predict Human Cancer Risk:

This book challenges the notion that cancer is a modern disease caused by increased exposure to synthetic chemicals. While it is true that cancer accounted for less than 4% of all U.S. deaths in 1900 but 23% in 2000, the authors point out that the major cause is the increase in cigarette smoking and the longer life expectancy of a population no longer susceptible to past epidemics. But try telling that to the activists who have targeted synthetic chemicals to a host of misconceived rules and regulations.

One major problem with current regulatory policy is its reliance on animal testing. Most cancer testing today is usually performed on rats and mice. But humans are not rodents. As the book notes: "Findings of carcinogenicity in animal tests are not strongly predictive of human carcinogenicity. Only a limited number of chemicals initially found to cause cancer in animals have been subsequently found to be human carcinogens." Another problem with rats and mice is that the breeds "most commonly used.have high spontaneous rates of certain types of tumors; this limits their predictive value." Finally, animal tests typically use the "maximum tolerated dose" (MTD). The MTD is the highest amount of a substance that can be tested on rats and mice without killing them. But humans are almost never exposed to such high levels. For example, a human would have to drink 7,500 cans daily of a soda containing red dye #2 to achieve the test levels that caused the dye to be banned as potentially carcinogenic.

Unfortunately, most cancer agencies (e.g., the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program, and the Environmental Protection Agency) rely on animal testing to determine whether a substance is likely to cause cancer in humans. The National Cancer Institute (NCI), the federal government's principal cancer research agency, relies on a mix of animal and human data. Still, the book faults NCI for not taking "a lead role in informing the public about whether exposure to trace levels of synthetic chemicals in the environment contributes to the human cancer toll."

Once a substance is deemed a carcinogen, it is subject to the "Delaney clause" of the 1958 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. It states that: No additive shall be deemed to be safe if it is found to induce cancer when ingested by man or laboratory animals or if it is found, after tests which are appropriate for the evaluation of the safety of food additives, to induce in man or animals.

However, the Delaney clause is also a grandfather clause because it only applies to new additives and substances. All substances recognized as safe before adoption of the 1958 law are allowed. That has produced a classic unintended and perverse effect. The authors observe: One result of the Delaney clause has been to preclude the replacement of [old] substances or those approved before 1958 with newer, possibly safer or more effective alternatives, because the law forbids any risk whatsoever for substances given new regulatory approvals but holds the older substances to a looser standard. Thus, one unintended result of the Delaney clause had been to discourage innovation, even if such innovation could have resulted in food products with enhanced quality or safety.

The unintended effect of the Delaney clause has been deadly. For instance, it is now estimated that at least 30 million people worldwide have died from malaria, a disease once prevented by DDT. But DDT was banned after researchers discovered that it caused cancer in mice. Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) is a pesticide once used on fruit, and apple growers used Alar to slow growth in certain types of apples and prevent rotting. The cancer risk for humans of these two chemicals is virtually zero. However, once public hysteria reached fever pitch their use was discontinued. Farmers now resort to less effective alternatives, which makes their crop smaller and their fruit less affordable for consumers. Since studies routinely show that high fruit intake is linked to a reduction in some types of cancer the result is that we actually may be less safe than before use of these pesticides was ended.

Unfortunately, American regulatory policies tend to reinforce the activist-led cancer scare campaigns based on shaky science. We would be far better off with a public health system that conveys sensible information on real cancer risks like cigarette smoking and over-exposure to sunlight. What can policymakers do to inform themselves about misleading scare campaigns? A good place to start would be to read America's War on Carcinogens.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

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