While American veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos from the ships they served on, the barracks they slept in and the equipment they worked with, people today are at risk from an entirely different source. Though the carcinogenic material has been largely removed from occupational environments, it is still very much a concern where it remains in place from previous construction projects, as well as from being dumped or disposed of carelessly. A group of researchers from Unitec, the largest technology institute in Auckland, New Zealand, have tackled the issue, and believe they’ve come up with a solution for cleaning up asbestos-contaminated soil, and possibly for breaking down asbestos in other applications as well.
If the Unitec scientists are successful, they will not only have created a breakthrough in eliminating asbestos in the environment, but may save untold numbers of people from the ravages of malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Their idea is based on the fact that asbestos fibers contain iron, a material that many lichens and plants use in order to grow. When these organisms encounter iron within a material, they bind to it and leach it out. Their question is whether the plants will do the same thing to asbestos, and in the process render it harmless.
If it works, the biological solution that the researchers are exploring could eliminate many future cases of mesothelioma, and could potentially change the way that we deal with asbestos disposal. Current regulations require the dangerous material to be carefully wrapped, sealed and buried in dedicated landfills where they always have the potential of future exposure. Though it is not yet clear how long the ecological process would take – or even if removing iron from asbestos would eliminate its dangers – the group is moving forward, starting their exploration with asbestos-contaminated soil before eventually moving on to products that are contaminated with asbestos.
If you or someone you love has already been affected by mesothelioma and you need information on the benefits and resources available to you, contact us today at 1-800-726-7245.