Washington: A mineral sharing similar physical similarities with asbestos and found down the gravel roads in the U.S. may increase the risk of mesothelioma, researchers have warned.
The clouds of dust left in its wake contain such high levels of the mineral erionite that those who breathe in the air every day are at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, a type of cancer of the membranes around the lungs, new research shows.
Michele Carbone, M.D., Ph.D., director of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center in Honolulu, has previously linked erionite exposure in some Turkish villages to unusually high rates of mesothelioma.
Recently, he and colleagues turned their attention to potential erionite exposure in the U.S., where at least 12 states have erionite-containing rock deposits.
They focused their efforts on Dunn County, North Dakota, when they learned that rocks containing erionite have been used to produce gravel for the past 30 years.
The airborne levels of erionite in North Dakota were comparable to levels found in Turkish villages with 6-8 percent mortality rates from mesothelioma, the researchers reported.
"Based on the similarity between the erionite from the two sources," says Carbone, "there is concern for increased risk of mesothelioma in North Dakota."
The long latency period of the disease—it can take 30 to 60 years of exposure to cause mesothelioma—and the fact that many erionite deposits have only been mined in the past few decades suggests that the number of cases could soon be on the rise, researchers said.
The study was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.