Asbestos Containment Study Points to Continued Risk for Mesothelioma

Before it was known that asbestos caused malignant mesothelioma and other deadly diseases, the mineral was mined, processed, and used in manufacturing all over the United States. Once its toxicity was discovered, the contaminated soil from sites where asbestos had been used and dumped was addressed on an individual basis. Some were simply abandoned, some were carted away, and some were capped with deep layers of soil in hopes that the fibers would be trapped and kept from becoming airborne. A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania is reconsidering the effectiveness of that last approach, raising concerns that long-buried asbestos may be making its way into local groundwater.

Geophysicists’ Asbestos Findings Raise Local Fears of Mesothelioma 

Residents whose homes are near asbestos waste sites live with a constant fear of mesothelioma. Burying the toxic material under soil caps was meant to protect them and allay those fears, but a new laboratory study has revealed that organic materials found in soil may actually facilitate the fibers’ ability to move up and reach groundwater through either irrigation or from the fibers washing up and drying out.  They are encouraging these communities to begin monitoring their groundwater for asbestos.

Though the researchers agree that burying asbestos would theoretically prevent it from becoming airborne and causing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, they say that reasonable reliance on the attraction between asbestos fibers and the soil did not consider the impact of dissolved organic material, or DOM. These compounds can change the surface of asbestos particles, essentially providing them with a slippery coating that makes it easier for them to slide through soil and reach the surface.

Communities’ Water Supply Could Result in Asbestos Fibers Becoming Airborne

Malignant mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, and it is particularly dangerous when the mineral’s fibers become airborne. The researchers are concerned that asbestos fibers in areas where the mineral has been capped could move from groundwater into the air via their showers, sinks, baths, and humidifiers. Though more research is needed, they are encouraging the EPA to begin testing groundwater near Superfund sites. Said one of the researchers, “Not taking a groundwater sample is a mistake. What we saw here, there is a possibility that it might be in the groundwater, so at least there should be monitoring.”

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, you need access to information and resources. The Patient Advocates at can help. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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