W.R. Grace/Zonolite Co. Plant - Beltsville, Maryland

Modified on 2009/10/14 21:46 by admin
A public health consultation of the former W.R. Grace/Zonolite Co. facility in Beltsville, Md., by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) concludes that facility employees were exposed to elevated levels of asbestos. Residents of employees' households also may have been exposed to asbestos fibers brought into the household on employees' clothing, skin and hair. Therefore, employees and those who lived in their homes may be at increased risk of asbestos-related diseases.

ATSDR, a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that former employees of this facility and those who lived in their households learn more about asbestos and see a physician regarding potentially adverse health effects.

"Because of the elevated health risk, ATSDR believes former W.R. Grace/Zonolite employees and members of their households should seek medical follow-up," stated Vikas Kapil, M.D., a specialist in occupational and environmental medicine with ATSDR. "We encourage them to consult with a physician with expertise in the evaluation and management of asbestos-related lung disease."

Until it closed in the early 1990s, the plant, located at 12340 Conway Rd., processed approximately 93,000 tons of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite ore mined in Libby, Mont. The vermiculite was exfoliated (heated until it expanded, or "popped"), then used to manufacture other products.

Recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) soil samples detected no residual asbestos in on-site soils, and no stockpiles of vermiculite or vermiculite waste are present. Current land use in the surrounding area is primarily industrial. The nearest residential area is approximately one-half mile from the site.

According to Amanda Gonzalez, an ATSDR environmental health scientist, "On-site exposure to asbestos-contaminated soils does not appear to pose a public health hazard to those now employed at the site or living or working in the surrounding area."

Information about what occurred during the period when the plant processed the asbestos-contaminated vermiculite remains incomplete. Whether people living near the site when it was in operation were exposed to asbestos is not known. Also unknown is whether those currently living nearby are being exposed to asbestos from "stoner rock" (un-popped vermiculite), a process waste product which may have been used in the community for various purposes such as fill, driveway surfacing or soil amendments.

The vermiculite ore processed in Beltsville contained asbestos, which can become airborne and can be inhaled. Exposure to asbestos fibers is associated with serious adverse human health effects, including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, a disorder that restricts breathing capacity. Because of the effects associated with asbestos exposure, ATSDR continues a broad range of efforts in Libby and is expanding those efforts to include sites that received and processed Libby ore.

See your doctor if you have experienced serious health problems because of asbestos. In addition, it may be important to contact an attorney who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits within which you must commence suit.

See Also

  1. Specific Contaminated Sites
  2. Asbestosis: Overview
  3. Lung Cancer: Overview
  4. Mesothelioma
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