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Geologic occurrences of erionite in the United States: an emerging national public health concern for respiratory disease

Abstract

Erionite, a mineral series within the zeolite group, is classified as a Group 1 known respiratory carcinogen. This designation resulted from extremely high incidences of mesothelioma discovered in three small villages from the Cappadocia region of Turkey, where the disease was linked to environmental exposures to fibrous forms of erionite. Natural deposits of erionite, including fibrous forms, have been identified in the past in the western United States. Until recently, these occurrences have generally been overlooked as a potential hazard. In the last several years, concerns have emerged regarding the potential for environmental and occupational exposures to erionite in the United States, such as erionite-bearing gravels in western North Dakota mined and used to surface unpaved roads. As a result, there has been much interest in identifying locations and geologic environments across the United States where erionite occurs naturally. A 1996 U.S. Geological Survey report describing erionite occurrences in the United States has been widely cited as a compilation of all US erionite deposits; however, this compilation only focused on one of several geologic environments in which erionite can form. Also, new occurrences of erionite have been identified in recent years. Using a detailed literature survey, this paper updates and expands the erionite occurrences database, provided in a supplemental file (US_erionite.xls). Epidemiology, public health, and natural hazard studies can incorporate this information on known erionite occurrences and their characteristics. By recognizing that only specific geologic settings and formations are hosts to erionite, this knowledge can be used in developing management plans designed to protect the public.

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Acknowledgments

This paper benefited greatly from the insightful manuscript suggestions and scientific input provided by Dr. Aubrey Miller (Senior Medical Advisor for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences), Heather Lowers (USGS, research geologist), and two anonymous reviewers for Environmental Geochemistry and Health.

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Correspondence to Bradley S. Van Gosen.

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Van Gosen, B.S., Blitz, T.A., Plumlee, G.S. et al. Geologic occurrences of erionite in the United States: an emerging national public health concern for respiratory disease. Environ Geochem Health 35, 419–430 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10653-012-9504-9

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Keywords

  • Erionite
  • Fibrous
  • Carcinogen
  • United States
  • Environmental
  • Occurrences