Another Asbestos myth exposed
"Asbestos fibers do not bind to soils, and do not migrate to groundwater through soil. Asbestos fibers are not water soluble and do not move through groundwater to any appreciable extent. Asbestos is not expected to accumulate in aquatic life."
Margaret Miller, MLA Minister of Environment
A new study shows asbestos fibers can move through sand and soil, a breakthrough that challenges current remediation strategies for preventing exposure to the cancer-causing mineral.
Geologist Jane Willenbring of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego leads the ongoing study. The first phase tested the long-held belief that asbestos waste pilesare locked in place when capped by soil.
Willenbring’s postdoctoral researcher Sanjay Mohanty of the University of Pennsylvania discovered that when organic acids coat asbestos fibers, the threads can travel through sand and soil.
“This is something that can happen in soils, where you have organic acids that are created from plants, fungi and also bacteria,” Willenbring told Asbestos.com. “These organic acids can coat the outside of the fibers and actually change the mobility of the fibers.”
Large amounts of asbestos waste buried in the environment have concerned scientists and environmentalists for years, but surprisingly, few have explored how asbestos fibers contaminate groundwater.
“They find it in water, and they know where the asbestos is, so they can assume transport,” Willenbring explained. “But this is the first time anyone has put a known amount of asbestos in the top of a soil column and actually saw some asbestos coming out.”
Willenbring presented her findings in August at the 2016 American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences funded the project.