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August 21, 2018

Meeting to discuss proposed development on Ambler asbestos site

The BoRit Asbestos Superfund Site Community Advisory Group announced that it is scheduled to meet with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday to discuss a proposed residential construction on the Bast parcel in Ambler.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Upper Dublin Township Building, 801 Loch Alsh Ave., Fort Washington.

The Community Advisory Group works with the EPA to oversee the remediation of asbestos sites in the area. The CAG said the Bast parcel, located near the Ambler train station, has been approved for apartment construction by the DEP but still consists of 90 percent asbestos.

Scheduled to address the meeting is the developer of the project, John Zaharzak. He is expected to explain how he will clean and construct on the parcel, and the DEP is expected to review its guidelines for development of the parcel. – Inquirer staff

See the original article here:  

Meeting to discuss proposed development on Ambler asbestos site

Asbestos proves to be a microscopic road block near Boulder City

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L.E. Baskow

UNLV geology professor Brenda Buck and associate professor Rodney Metcalf confer over samples in their lab. They found asbestos in Boulder City that is delaying construction of a highway bypass.

In November 2011, two UNLV scientists touched carbon tape to a sample of bluish-grey mineral on the face of a rock found south of Henderson, then placed it under a microscope. The computer screen showed telltale white fibers, long and slim, like miniature straws.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber found in rock and soil. In the ’60s and ’70s, it was a popular building material.

• Eldorado Hills, Calif.: Naturally occurring asbestos was found in this Sacramento suburb in September 2003 in the soil of the high school. In less than a year, after about $2.5 million in cleanup costs, the EPA and Oak Ridge High significantly cut the health risk to students by landscaping to reduce dust and prevent asbestos fibers from getting airborne.

• Clear Creek Management Area, Calif.: Atop one of the largest asbestos deposits in the world, this recreation area sits on a 29,000-acre serpentine deposit in San Benito and Fresno counties. Inside is the Atlas Asbestos Mine Superfund site, which first got the EPA’s attention in 1984 when large amounts of erosion caused asbestos to flow downstream into the California aqueduct. Since then, the water has been cleaned up, all the mines closed and measures taken to stop erosion. The Bureau of Land Management designated the area as hazardous and propped asbestos warning signs up at entrance points.

• Libby Superfund Site, Mont.: Libby, a former mining town of fewer than 3,000, has been on the EPA’s National Priorities List of most contaminated sites since 1983. In June 2009, it was designated a public health emergency. Contamination was town-wide, partly because residents used vermiculite as a soil additive in their gardens.

• North Ridge Estates Superfund Site, Ore.: Also on the National Priorities List, North Ridge Estates is a residential subdivision near Klamath Falls. Asbestos remnants were found across 50 acres of the neighborhood. The source: demolition debris from the Marine Recuperational Barracks, a complex of about 80 1940s-era buildings that housed soldiers recovering from tropical illnesses. In 2005, exposure risk was determined to be so high that residents were temporarily relocated for the summer when children were on school break and the climate was driest and windiest.

• Torch Lake Superfund, Mich.: From 1868 to 1968, copper mining and smelting operations dumped an estimated 200 million pounds of toxic tailings containing asbestos into Torch Lake on the east side of Lake Michigan. The primary concern is the ecosystem, particularly bottom-dwelling animals whose volume was, pre-cleanup, 20 percent contaminant.

• Carter Carburetor, Mo.: Carter Carburetor, a gasoline and diesel engine manufacturing plant just outside of St. Louis, was active from the 1920s to about 1984, when it was dismantled. Asbestos, found in machinery, furniture and building parts, along with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls and trichloroethylene used in the manufacturing process, were found at unacceptable levels.

It was what they feared: asbestos.

Asbestos used to be modern society’s friend — its strong, flexible, heat-resistant fibers mined and spun into insulation, fireproofing and decorative ceiling finishes. Only later was it discovered that, in certain forms, it can cause respiratory problems including scarred and inflamed lungs and, in extreme cases, cancer.

When UNLV geoscientists Brenda Buck, Rodney Metcalf and their colleagues published a scientific paper eight months ago on the presence of naturally occurring asbestos in Clark County, the effects were immediate and potentially far-reaching.

The discovery has stalled plans, more than 10 years in the making, to build a $490 million highway detour around Boulder City so traffic can move smoothly between Las Vegas and Arizona. Until that new highway is built, tourists, truckers and commuters must use Highway 93, which slices into town and slows miserably on busy days.

Beyond that, the first evidence of naturally occurring asbestos in Clark County may conceivably affect development not yet imagined. Asbestos becomes dangerous when disturbed, when it can be inhaled. That means construction potentially could whirl up a deadly cloud. Because the asbestos is a part of the landscape, cleanup is tough.

Bypass delays have frustrated the town.

“We can’t handle the traffic,” Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler said. “If there’s an accident, it shuts down the whole town. I think this community is tired of what’s going on, and they have been for 10 years.”

The Nevada Department of Transportation and Regional Transportation Commission, partners in the bypass project, are frustrated too, with their own questions: Where exactly is the asbestos-carrying rock? Will construction activity stir it into the air? What is the health risk to workers and travelers?

Construction was scheduled to begin this spring but was put on hold in April to allow for asbestos testing and analysis. Results are expected next month.

NDOT, which is leading Phase I of the project — a 2.5-mile connector heading east from Highway 95 — is prepared to begin construction as soon as it gets the green light. The RTC’s work — a 12.5-mile stretch that finishes the bypass to near the Colorado River — isn’t scheduled to begin until early 2015.

But construction plans may have to be adjusted to reduce workers’ exposure to dust, and bids still need to be sought for contractors.

“Everyone wants to make sure that we proceed in the right manner, and I think we’re doing that,” Tobler said. “I don’t think (the asbestos) is going to hurt the project like it has in other places. I think we’ll be able to move forward.”

But asbestos has a history of slowing major public work projects. In Ambler, Alaska, its presence in a gravel pit stalled an airport expansion and sewage lagoon project for more than a decade. Outside San Jose, Calif., it delayed a $718 million dam replacement for at least three years, and workers now are required to wear protective clothing and decontaminate before leaving the site.

There are no federal regulations for dealing with naturally occurring asbestos. It’s left to states to create regulations based on Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines addressing dust control, monitoring of air and soil, and worker exposure.

Nevada hasn’t created such regulations. Native asbestos doesn’t fall under county air quality standards, and Nevada OSHA has yet to address worker protection. For the most part, everyone is waiting for the test results or for the problem to come knocking on their door. Even the EPA, though aware of the Boulder City asbestos and acting as an adviser for mitigation, is waiting for a request from local officials before getting directly involved.

Meanwhile, Buck and Metcalf continue the research that sparked the issue.

Buck, who specializes in medical geology, started the asbestos study in 2011. A sample from the McCullough Range in Clark County, just south of Henderson, showed mineral actinolite — one of the six regulated forms of asbestos.

They teamed with scientists from the University of Hawaii, home to leading researchers on medical asbestos exposure, and started writing proposals for additional research funding, which they received in spring 2013. The mineral trail led them from the rolling, rocky hills of the McCullough Range overlooking Lake Mead to Highway 93 at Eldorado Dry Lake, a popular site for off-roading and Fourth of July parties, to the heart of Boulder City, beside Martha P. King Elementary School, and the outskirts of its southern and eastern neighborhoods. Every sample contained the fibrous amphiboles.

What was particularly concerning was that the type of asbestos fibers the geologists discovered are known to be particularly dangerous, and their breadth was much more extensive than what the UNLV team originally had thought.

“As soon as we found this out, we worked as fast as we could and as hard as we could to get the data published so that we could inform the public,” Buck said.

The fibers were similar to those found in Libby, Mont., where asbestos-rich mineral vermiculite was mined, leading to the town’s designation 15 years ago as a Superfund site. Many Libby residents have been diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses, including cancer, due in part to their churning vermiculite into their gardens and vegetable patches as a soil conditioner.

The size and shape of the fibers, along with the type of mineral, determine how toxic it is. If it’s small enough, it becomes respirable. Of the fibers Buck and Metcalf found, 97 percent were respirable.

Dormant, undisturbed asbestos isn’t typically a problem. It’s often left in buildings and insulation because it isn’t dangerous unless it becomes airborne. In fact, the act of removing it often presents more danger than leaving it alone.

But that won’t be possible in construction of the highway bypass because explosives are needed to cut a route through the hills.

Thus the challenge: How to ensure the health of construction workers and motorists?

Part of the task includes assessing how extensive the asbestos is. To that end, the geologists are training the transportation departments’ asbestos analysts to spot the kind of rock that hosts the fibers.

There is no known amount of safe exposure to asbestos. But Michele Carbone, a leading researcher of mesothelioma, the cancer linked with asbestos exposure, said the immediate health risks are minimal. Risk rises with the amount of exposure and the concentration of fibers. Signs of the disease may not be evident for 40 years or more.

“Obviously, there is a significant risk, but the odds are you won’t get cancer,” Carbone said. “It takes significant, prolonged exposure. It’s not like shaking hands with someone, and you get the disease. People shouldn’t panic.”

Carbone, of the University of Hawaii, is working with Metcalf and Buck to test their samples on animal and human cells. His colleague Francine Baumann, an epidemiologist specializing in asbestos exposure, is looking at rates of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses in Southern Nevada to determine if the population already is at risk. She’s looking for trends of disease in young people and women, people least likely to be affected from working in places where asbestos might be present.

Nevada is not a hot spot for the disease; as of 2009, mesothelioma struck only about 20 Nevadans a year, keeping pace with the national average.

“Until we know more, one solution is to try and reduce exposure,” Buck said.

Off-road enthusiasts, for instance, may be encouraged to ride somewhere other than the Eldorado Valley.

Today, Buck and Metcalf are mapping the area where the asbestos may lurk, looking into areas with similar geology such as Searchlight, Laughlin and Lake Mead. And they’re trying to get funding to collect air samples, to determine the risk of exposure from different activities, including four-wheeling, horseback riding or simply taking a walk in areas that contain the asbestos.

When they go into the field, they’re careful, wearing respiratory devices and protective clothing. They take their own cars instead of the UNLV geoscience department’s vehicles, so they don’t expose students. They’ve notified UNLV geology, biology and anthropology departments to close down contaminated zones to fieldwork.

They’re worried about their own exposure, having spent years in the field kicking up dust and hammering into contaminated rock. They’re hoping it’s not as bad as it could be.

But they won’t know the answers until their research is complete.

Taken from:  

Asbestos proves to be a microscopic road block near Boulder City

Penn Receives $10 Million Award to Study Asbestos Adverse Health Effects, Remediation

Penn Receives $10 Million Award to Study Asbestos Adverse Health Effects, Remediation

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Newswise — PHILADELPHIA – Researchers at the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET), Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, have been awarded a $10 million grant from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) over the next four years to study asbestos exposure pathways that lead to mesothelioma, the bioremediation of this hazardous material, and mechanisms that lead to asbestos-related diseases. One of these, mesothelioma, a rare cancer diagnosed in about 3,000 patients each year, is caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos. The disease is usually fatal with very poor prognosis once diagnosed.

The Penn Superfund Research and Training Program (SRP) Center, which was established by this grant, evolved as a direct consequence of concerns from the community living near the BioRit Asbestos Superfund site in Ambler, PA, about 20 miles north of Philadelphia. CEET is the academic home for the Penn Superfund Center.

NIEHS is a primary stakeholder in the SRP Center, with its sister Superfund programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

This award is the first NIEHS Superfund grant driven by problems identified in a community-academic partnership. CEET’s Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) has facilitated bi-directional communication with the Ambler community for the last five years. The communities of West and South Ambler have long been active in studying the ramifications of their town’s long-closed asbestos factory. Residents in these communities remain at risk for environmental exposure and a potentially increased risk of developing mesothelioma.

Ian A. Blair, PhD, professor of Pharmacology, is the director of the Center. CEET director Trevor M. Penning, PhD, professor of Pharmacology is the deputy director of the Center. Christine Shwed is the Center’s administrative coordinator. Researchers from the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC), the Penn School of Arts and Sciences, and Fox Chase Cancer Center are also lead investigators on the grant.

“The work of the Superfund Center is a model of how to bring precision medicine into the realm of environmental health by determining, on an individual basis, who has been exposed to a toxicant and whether they will develop disease,” says Penning.

“I am heartened that the NIEHS has chosen to fund this truly interdisciplinary center, which is uniquely qualified to address the concerns relating to asbestos exposure that have been identified by the Ambler community,” notes Blair.

“This new research and training award is designed to address important asbestos-related issues so that more informed risk and clean-up decisions can be made and shared,” said NIEHS Superfund research program director William Suk, PhD. “This funding of the Penn SRP Center has the potential to help communities affected by asbestos exposures locally and elsewhere.”

Long-term Solutions for a Long-term Problem
From the late 1880s through the present day, Ambler residents have had either occupational or environmental exposure to asbestos. As a result, both current and former residents of the area face potentially serious long-term health consequences. The Pennsylvania Department of Health, with the aid of the COEC, determined that there has been an increase in the rate of mesothelioma in the area compared to the adjacent zip codes, with women having a greater risk than men. The researchers are hopeful that continued investigation and education will yield more information about exposure pathways that led to these health risks.

The new Center will tackle two inter-related environmental science studies and four biomedical science studies. The six projects were designed to address a community-based question or concern that been previously identified by the COEC:
• Can we remediate asbestos without moving it from the original disposal site?
• What do we know about the fate and transport of asbestos in the environment by water and air?
• What do we know about the exposure pathways that were responsible for the mesothelioma cluster in Ambler? And why is the incidence higher in women?
• Is susceptibility to mesothelioma genetic?
• Can asbestos-related disease be prevented?
• Is there a blood test to determine whether a person will get asbestos-related disease?

“The new SRP Center is a great example showing the value of Penn’s Environmental Health Sciences Core Center’s community outreach and engagement activities,” notes NIEHS Core Center program director Claudia Thompson, PhD. “CEET includes two-way communication that spurs new research opportunities to address environmental public health concerns of community residents.”

The environmental projects centering on the remediation of asbestos particles will be conducted by Jane Willenbring, PhD and Brenda Casper, PhD (School of Arts and Sciences) and will use mycrorrhiza fungi to break down asbestos to a new non-toxic mineral form. Studies on the mobility and fate of asbestos particles in streams and rivers will be conducted by Doug Jerolmack, PhD (School of Arts and Sciences) and Willenbring. Methods to detect asbestos in the environment will involve monitoring its movement through soil and water using translucent soil substitutes and a nanoaqaurium. A sociological study to identify how asbestos exposure can occur and whether this can explain the cluster of asbestos-induced mesotheliomas in Ambler will be conducted by Fran Barg and Ted Emmett (Penn Medicine). Although these projects evolved in response to the Ambler community’s concerns, the results could be readily translated to the 15 other Superfund asbestos sites in the US.

The biomedical arm of the Center grant will explore the genetics of mesothelioma susceptibility and develop a blood test for early detection using a mouse model of mesothelioma. Becky Simmons, PhD (Penn Medicine) will be working with Joseph Testa, PhD (Fox Chase) and a tumor-suppressor knockout mouse he has developed. The team will determine if there is genetic predisposition that makes individuals more susceptible to asbestos-induced mesothelioma. The mouse model can be used to test whether the remediated asbestos is less toxic.

Melpo Christofidou-Solomidou, PhD, and Steve Albelda, MD (Penn Medicine) will study how to prevent mesothelioma in mice exposed to asbestos using an antioxidant in flaxseed and also use the flaxseed to treat the mice if they have early signs of mesothelioma. Anil Vachani and Blair will develop a blood test to determine if subjects have been exposed to asbestos and whether they are at risk for developing mesothelioma. In order to do this, they will use blood samples from workers who were heavily exposed to asbestos. These samples will be provided by the National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos Related Cancer at Wayne State University and by the Philadelphia Insulators and Asbestos Workers Local 14 Union. The mesothelioma blood samples will be provided by the Penn Lung Center and the Mesothelioma and Pleural Program, the National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank, and stored mesothelioma samples held at the Mt. Sinai Medical School in New York.

The Biostatistics Research Core directed by Wei-Ting Wang, PhD (Penn Medicine) will provide the biostatistical expertise for all of the projects and the Research Translational Core directed by Richard Pepino, MSS, and Robert Schenkel, PhD (Penn Center for Innovation) will transmit results of the Center’s activities to the scientific community, regulatory agencies and promote such new technologies as asbestos remediation strategies for commercialization, as well as new prognostic and diagnostic tests for asbestos exposure. The Community Engagement Core directed by Emmett and Barg will transmit all of the findings back to the Ambler community, as well as relaying additional community concerns to Center investigators.

“The new Superfund Center, with its focus on asbestos fate, exposure, remediation, and adverse health effects will significantly complement a Translational Center of Excellence in Thoracic Oncology that has been established within the Abramson Cancer Center,” notes Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD, ACC director. “It will also enrich the Population Sciences Program of the Cancer Center, with its mission of cancer risk assessment.”

“I am delighted that the new Center has been established because it will significantly add to Penn’s translational research portfolio,” noted Garret FitzGerald, MD, FRS, director of Penn’s Institute for Translation Medicine and Therapeutics.
The grant also provides funds to establish a unique interdisciplinary training program, which will marry environmental sciences with environmental health sciences so that doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows will receive training in these complementary disciplines. Unique features of this training include participation in Superfund webinars sponsored by NIEHS and internships in technology transfer at CTT and the EPA.

###
Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report’s survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania — recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital — the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.


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Penn Receives $10 Million Award to Study Asbestos Adverse Health Effects, Remediation