Articles and Resources

Vermont Residents and the Asbestos Mine
January 21, 2009

The Vermont Asbestos Group Mine closed in 1993, but it is still stirring controversy in the thirteen towns near the Belvidere Mountain area where it was located. Fourteen hospitalizations and five deaths are thought to have been due to the adverse health effects of asbestos.

A report from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and the Vermont Department of Health show that there may be a reason to study further the health risks brought about by past mining activities.

This conclusion was drawn from analyzing data gathered from towns that are within a ten-mile radius of the mine, and while the study may have had its limits, there is a noticeable statistical link between the occurrence of asbestos-related disease in communities within the mine’s vicinity. It was determined that risk of contracting asbestos-related diseases triples with geographic exposure to asbestos mines.

Asbestos used to be a staple material in American homes until the 1970s for insulation, floor and roofing tiles and tile glues. When the adverse health effects of the material were discovered, agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the OSHA and the CDC have attempted to ban the mineral from commercial use.

Until now, though, asbestos still finds its way into the market, but the attempts to ban it had significantly limited the quantities to which the American public may be exposed to.

Proximity to an area that has been mined for asbestos, though, is a different story. The removal of asbestos-based products will do nothing to exposure. Asbestos fibers enter the body through inhalation, and may lead to a number of diseases.

The most notable among these diseases is mesothelioma, an incurable form of cancer that is usually not detected until it is already in its advanced stage, sometimes up to three decades after exposure. This means that the 14 hospitalizations and 5 deaths in the area at this time is just the tip of the iceberg. Diseases may not manifest themselves until the 2020s.

The most the authorities can do as of now is to warn people about staying away from the property. The mine is closed, but outdoor enthusiasts such as all-terrain vehicle drivers use the property for their activities.