A University of California San Diego study has challenged the belief that asbestos fibres cannot move through soil.
This discovery has implications for current remediation methods of capping asbestos-filled soil to prevent human exposure to the toxic dust, which causes the cancer mesothelioma.
Led by scientist Jane Willenbring and University of Pennsylvania postdoctoral researcher Sanjay Mohanty, the research team tested the notion that asbestos waste piles remained in place once it was capped by soil.
They found that dissolved organic matter within the soil sticks to the asbestos particles, creating a change of the electric charge on the outside of the particle that allows it to move through the soil.
“Asbestos gets coated with a very common substance that makes it easier to move,” Willenbring said in a report by Science Daily, “if you have water with organic matter next to the asbestos waste piles, such as a stream, you then have a pathway from the waste pile and possibly to human inhalation.”
Currently, asbestos waste piles are capped with soil to avoid human contact.