• High Rates of Mesothelioma Found in Southern Nevada Residents
  • April 22, 2015 | Authors: Michael B. Gurien; Gary M. Paul
  • Law Firm: Waters, Kraus & Paul - El Segundo Office
  • Construction of Nevada highways has been delayed because of the discovery of high levels of asbestos in the soil. Scientists are concerned that the asbestos could be dangerous to residents living nearby. Asbestos exposure is the only confirmed cause of mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs and other organs in the body.

    Geologists Find Southern Nevada Contaminated with High Levels of Naturally Occurring Asbestos

    The issue reportedly came to light after geologists Rodney Metcalf and Brenda Buck began collecting soil samples in Clark and Nye counties in southern Nevada. The samples revealed that the area is naturally contaminated with toxic levels of asbestos. University of Hawaii epidemiologist, Francine Baumann, studied the samples and published an article in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology finding an unsettling pattern of mesothelioma among area residents.

    Baumann’s study found increased mesothelioma rates in adults younger than age 55. The findings were striking given that mesothelioma is found most often in men with an average age of 74. In southern Nevada, by contrast, women and teenagers are suffering from the asbestos-related cancer. The study concluded that the high rates of mesothelioma in the area residents could be linked to the plentiful levels of asbestos found in the soil there. The study suggests that further research should be conducted to allow Nevada officials to develop a plan to minimize residents’ asbestos exposure.

    Meanwhile, Buck and Metcalf have since located asbestos minerals in other Nevada cities, including Las Vegas, Boulder City and eastern Henderson. But that’s where the Nevada Department of Transportation wants to construct the Boulder City Bypass, a $490 million interstate highway. The road plows right through the area that Buck and Metcalf have found to be contaminated with high levels of asbestos.

    Nevada officials appear to be not as concerned about risks to residents’ health as the scientists, however. Officials have determined that the asbestos levels are low enough that workers can proceed with the highway. The plan to protect highway workers in the dry, dusty climate is to monitor the water and air down the roadbed.