When asked about asbestos exposure, most people immediately tend to think of industrial settings such
as shipyards, refineries, textile mills or power plants. While most asbestos exposure hazards are indeed
occupational, people forget that asbestos exposure actually originates in the environment.
Asbestos refers to a class of six naturally occurring minerals. The individual minerals that fall into this
These fibers often appear in deposits with other minerals like limestone. Although individual fibers are
invisible to the naked eye, large environmental deposits may have a white or gray “dusty” appearance.
Deposits can be found across the world, but rocky, mountainous areas tend to be the most heavily
contaminated. California, Canada, South Africa and Australia are among the areas with the largest
concentrations of naturally occurring asbestos.
When mining, construction or even recreational activities disturb asbestos-contaminated deposits, the
raw fibers may enter the air. Some people also experience environmental asbestos exposure simply
living in towns where active asbestos mines contaminate the air with the fibers. This exposure can place
people at risk for a number of serious diseases, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.
How to Avoid Environmental Asbestos Exposure
Although the best way to prevent asbestos-related diseases is to avoid potential sources of exposure,
it’s not necessary to completely avoid nature activities.
Many parks have clearly labeled signs that mark asbestos deposits. Never enter these areas. In addition,
exercise your better judgment, even if signs are not present. Avoid dusty areas – especially in windy
You can also reduce your exposure risk by abstaining from dust-generating activities in areas where
asbestos may be present. Hiking, running, gardening, rock climbing and four-wheeling in asbestos-
contaminated soil can release the fibers into the air. Only conduct these activities in asbestos-free
To further reduce your risk, stay on paved trails whenever possible. Areas with a ground covering, such
as mulch, grass, gravel or rubber also tend to be safe for activity.
Author bio: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for The Mesothelioma Center.
One of her focuses is living with cancer.
For more information visit Asbestos.com