I-Team: Residents express concern over asbestos

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What to do about deadly dust, or naturally occurring asbestos, in the Boulder City area? That question drew a packed house Tuesday night in Boulder City, where citizens and scientists gathered to seek answers.

The gathering follows a special report about asbestos last week by I-Team Chief Investigator George Knapp.

One of the key issues is whether folks in the Boulder City area have an increased risk of mesothelioma, a deadly lung disease linked directly to asbestos exposure.

That is one area where the doctors and the scientists remain sharply divided.

The community room at the Boulder City Library overflowed with residents concerned about the discovery of naturally occurring asbestos in rocks and dust in the Boulder City area.

They heard from two UNLV geologists, a top EPA scientist and the state’s epidemiologist about how asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma.

It was a session long on information, but not necessarily answers.

“Anyone who has asthma or various types of allergies are definitely affected by that dust,” said one resident. “Now, we’re suddenly learning — well not so suddenly — but learning that there’s also asbestos in that dust.”

“We’re grandparents. We want our children to have a place where they can breathe the air safely,” another resident said.

“I apologize for my long windedness, but all I got tonight was a confirmation that I should be worried about something, but I don’t know what it is,” Boulder City resident David Thompson said.

How worried residents should be was a hot topic.

The state’s epidemiologist praised the UNLV geologists for discovering the asbestos in the environment, but disagreed with them about whether there was a higher incidence of mesothelioma in the Boulder City area related to naturally occurring asbestos.

“In every place in the country where naturally occurring asbestos is found — including our neighbors – truly, they did not find significant increase in the risk of developing mesothelioma,” he said.

While the physician and the geologists disagree about the risk, everyone agreed more monitoring is needed to determine how much asbestos exposure residents are getting, especially those involved in activities that stir up dust.

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