ASSE IL Member Warns of Asbestos Exposure at Congressional Oversight Hearing
Washington, D.C. (March 12, 2009) — The issue of the public’s possible exposure to asbestos on an Illinois State beach and alleged oversight by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will be the focus of Jeffery C. Camplin’s, Certified Safety Professional (CSP), and Certified Professional Environmental Auditor (CPEA), of IL, testimony today before the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Investigations and Oversight Sub Committee about alleged problems and mistakes made by ATSDR. Camplin noted ATSDR’s alleged failure to properly identify and communicate the threat of asbestos at Illinois Beach State Park in Waukegan, IL, has exposed millions to possible illness.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asbestos is the name for a number of naturally occurring fibrous minerals with high tensile strength, the ability to be woven, and resistance to heat and most chemicals. Asbestos fibers have been used in a wide range of manufactured goods, including roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper and cement products, textiles, coatings, and friction products such as automobile clutch, brake and transmission parts. However, exposure to airborne friable asbestos may result in a potential health risk because persons breathing the air may breathe in asbestos fibers. Fibers embedded in lung tissue over time may cause serious lung diseases including: asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma.
The purpose of the House hearing is to examine problems with ATSDR public health reports and how they have been developed. Congress is investigating possible mistakes made on the part of the ATSDR and its failure to identify the threat of asbestos in an Illinois Beach State Park public health announcement released in 2000.
Camplin, an American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) member active on many committees including serving as past ASSE Environmental Practice Specialty Administrator, is concerned that the public’s health is at continued risk due to the ASTDR.
“We are here today to demand accountability for the harm caused to public health by the inexcusable and deliberate behavior of ATSDR staff in downplaying elevated levels of toxic microscopic asbestos along the entire Illinois Lake Michigan shoreline,” Camplin said. “I am concerned about the lax behavior and misuse of science by ATSDR/Centers for Disease Control (CDC) leadership and concerned as to why ATSDR purposefully downplays the chronic asbestos exposure to millions of Illinois citizens each year.”
Camplin began his testimony by noting in 1993 he took his wife and three young children to Illinois Beach State Park, located on the Lake Michigan shoreline north of Chicago. After building sand castles and burying each other in the sand, his wife noted how the car, the children’s hair, their ears, and shoes were full of sand. The sand ended up in their home, the laundry room, etc.
“However, it wasn’t sand,” Camplin said. “It was asbestos contamination my family and millions of other families had experienced. And today, years later despite efforts to protect the public, our Dunesland Preservation Society research indicates that ATSDR violated its mission to serve the public by purposefully not using valid science, by not taking responsive public health actions, and by providing untrustworthy health information.”
Camplin noted the cleanup of an asbestos Superfund site done years ago at the south end of the Illinois Beach State Park allowed trillions of asbestos fibers to be released from an unfiltered pipe into Lake Michigan from that time and still to this very day.
“The incompetency of this cleanup allowed large areas of asbestos-contaminated lake sediments to be dredged and dumped on and off shore at heavily visited public beaches. Then, I believe, rigged data was generated to conclude the massive asbestos contamination created was not hazardous to the millions of citizens who frequent these areas,” Camplin said. “Current science discredits and invalidates all of ATSDR’s past asbestos human health evaluations in Illinois, including the ‘rubber stamp approval’ for the Illinois Beach State Park and at hundreds of others sites throughout the nation. Yet the agency does not acknowledge this fact.”
Just this week, ATSDR issued a “Health Consultation” alert which, Camplin noted, fails to warn the public about the deadly microscopic amphibole mineral fibers ATSDR found in beach sand and air. The ATSDR communication, Camplin states, invites families to a shoreline (IL State Beach) chronically contaminated with asbestos…as long as they don’t touch the visible pieces of asbestos. “These pieces of asbestos gets on people, on our children, in our cars, in our homes and ultimately into our lungs,” Camplin said.
During his testimony, Camplin noted several examples that caused alarm including the ATSDR questionable testing times during the year, the finding of tremolite asbestos fiber at Chicago’s Oak Street beach – a fiber that devastated the town of Libby, Montana – yet ATSDR found no elevated risk to human health at this beach, and more.
“The dredging of toxic asbestos contaminated sand continues in Illinois spreading increased risk of mesothelioma cancer rates that are already elevated when compared to the national average,” Camplin said. “How high must the body count get?”
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, health care and education. For more information please go to www.asse.org.
Addendum – Three of the major health effects associated with asbestos, from the EPA, exposure include:
Asbestosis – Asbestosis is a serious, progressive, long-term non-cancer disease of the lungs. It is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers that irritate lung tissues and cause the tissues to scar. The scarring makes it hard for oxygen to get into the blood. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath and a dry, crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling. There is no effective treatment for asbestosis.
Lung Cancer – Lung cancer causes the largest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure. People who work in the mining, milling, manufacturing of asbestos, and those who use asbestos and its products are more likely to develop lung cancer than the general population. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are coughing and a change in breathing. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent chest pains, hoarseness, and anemia.
Mesothelioma – Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining (membrane) of the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart and almost all cases are linked to exposure to asbestos. This disease may not show up until many years after asbestos exposure. This is why great efforts are being made to prevent school children from being exposed.
EPA notes, exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects. Disease symptoms may take several years to develop following exposure.