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Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer News - Return to Menu

County officials are publicizing the health dangers of asbestos

By Leslie Wolf Branscomb
May 16, 2006 - A lot of people believe, mistakenly, that asbestos has been outlawed. But it hasn't, and it's still in many buildings.

County officials kicked off an asbestos awareness campaign yesterday, because of a rise in violations occurring during the recent spate of condo conversions.

Anyone remodeling a home or apartment built before 1980 must first have it tested for the presence of asbestos, which is still commonly found in vinyl flooring and acoustic “popcorn” ceilings.
Some contractors don't do that, however, and the ones who are caught can be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those who are not caught are needlessly exposing themselves and residents to potentially fatal diseases, according to county officials.

“Asbestos is one of the most cancer-causing pollutants we deal with on a regular basis,” said Dick Smith, director of the county Air Pollution Control District.

“There is no safe level of asbestos,” Smith said. If left undisturbed, it is not likely to cause harm, so homeowners don't have to worry if they aren't doing any renovations. But if asbestos fibers are inhaled during remodeling, they can remain in the lungs for years, causing cancer and other illnesses decades later, he said.

The mineral fiber, taken from underground mines, became popular in construction after it was discovered to have fire resistant properties. It is estimated that 30 million tons of asbestos were used in the United States in the last century.

It wasn't discovered until later that asbestos inhalation can cause asbestosis – a respiratory disease – lung cancer and an always-fatal cancer called mesothelioma.

County officials yesterday displayed many items that contain asbestos in use in office buildings, homes and apartments. It may be found in ceiling tiles, the insulation around pipes, the backing of floor tiles, for example.

The county Air Pollution Control District requires notification before work is done on commercial or apartment buildings. But inspections throughout the county found many significant violations, said Laurie Orange, senior deputy county counsel.

If asbestos is discovered, it must be removed and properly disposed of by state-licensed asbestos workers. Failure to do so can result in fines of up to $250,000 a day.

“I think the word has started to get out after a number of lawsuits and penalties,” Orange said.

More information is available at

Uganda Vermiculite does not contain asbestos

29th May, 2006 - On our Science Page of 16 May 2006, we published a story headed ‘Vermicide stoves could cause lung cancer.’ We wish to retract this story.

The article referred to problems that occurred with asbestos contamination of vermiculite in the United States (Libby, Montana). However there is no evidence that Ugandan vermiculite contains asbestos.

Canmin Resources Limited, the only producer of vermiculite in Uganda, has done multiple tests with internationally recognised laboratories which clearly state that no asbestos has been detected in Uganda vermiculite.

One such laboratory report is available at Click Here
The New Vision apologises to Canmin for suggesting that Ugandan vermiculite might contain asbestos and for any inconvenience caused by the article.




revised June 13, 2002

RJ LeeGroup, Inc.
350 Hochberg Road
Monroeville, PA 15146
Tel: (724) 325-1776
Fax: (724) 733-1799

The Materials Characterization Specialists

June 03, 2002

Mr. David DuVal
18445 Corte del Montana
Sonora, CA 95370

RE: Laboratory Analysis of Uganda Vermiculite

RJ Lee Group Project Number: LSC205805 (Ref No. MAC2O5O19)

Dear Mr. DuVal:

Enclosed are the results from the scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) analyses of the Uganda vermiculite sample. The sample was received on May 24, 2002 and was assigned Ri Lee Group sample number 3030664.

The as-received samples were reduced into representative 100 gram portions through the use of a riffle splitter. Each portion was then dried at 50 °C until no further weight loss was observed. The dried sample was then separated into greater than 500 micrometer and less than 500 micrometer fractions using wet (methanol) sieving techniques. Each portion was then dried and the mass of each fraction obtained.

Both size fractions were analyzed by polarized light microscopy (PLM) using the analytical method as outlined in EPA/600/R-93/l16. The PLM report was sent to you on May 30, 2002. The less than 500 micrometer fraction was also prepared and analyzed using SEM/EDS techniques.

Sample preparation for the SEM/EDS analyses involved suspending a known (approximately 200 mg) of less than 500 micrometer diameter material in 100 ml of methanol and sonicated for two minutes. A 0.5 ml aliquot was removed from the center of the suspension and then redeposited onto a 0.4 micrometer pore size 25 mm filter using vacuum filtration techniques. The entire filter was then mounted to an SEM stub using colloidal graphite. A thin layer of carbon was then applied to each prepared specimen using evaporative deposition under vacuum to minimize charging while in the SEM.

The identifications of fibrous structures during the SEM/EDS analyses were based on fiber morphology and elemental chemical analysis (i.e. EDS). Each fibrous particle was then measured during the analyses. Morphological characteristics such as parallel sides, presence or absence of cleavage sides / ends, parallel fibers occurring in bundles, bundles having splayed ends or fibers displaying curvature were used to determine fiber classifications. The sample was analyzed at magnifications up to 5000X for structures that were >5 micrometers in length and having a length to width ratio greater than >5:1.

The weight percentages were estimated by summing the individual calculated masses of the structures detected in the area analyzed and then extrapolated to the total weighed subsample. The mass of the individual structures were calculated using the structure dimensions and a density of 2.66 g/cc for chrysotile and 3.25 g/cc. for amphiboles.

The following table summarizes the SEM data for the < 500 micrometer fraction:

Client Identification Ri Lee Group ID Asbestos Content Sensitivity, %
Uganda Vermiculite 3030664 None Detected <0.002

No regulated asbestos minerals were observed during this analysis.

RJ Lee Group is accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP #101208-00) for asbestos fiber analysis. This report may not be used to claim product endorsement by NVLAP or any agency of the US government.

These results are submitted pursuant to RJ Lee Group's current terms and conditions of sale, including the company's standard warranty and limitation of liability provisions. No responsibility or liability is assumed for the manner in which the results are used or interpreted. Unless notified in writing to return the samples covered by this report, RJ Lee Group will store the samples for a period of ninety (90) days before discarding. A shipping and handling fee will be assessed for the return of any samples.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the information contained herein, please feel free to contact me.

Drew R.Van Orden, P.E.
Senior Scientist

The RJ Lee Group also tested this new deposit and mine of vermiculite using the less critcal PLM (polarized light microscopy) test method. In a letter dated May 30, 2002, they reported that "no asbestos was detected in the sample covered by this report." Copies of this report are availabe from Mr DuVal representing the Ugandan vermiculite in the United States.

The Schundler Company P.O. Box 513 Metuchen, New Jersey 08840
(ph)732-287-2244 (fax) 732-287-4185

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