On Monday, November 1, Cambridge City Council will vote on whether to pass a health ordinance protecting the community from industrial levels of asbestos in soil. Some developers do not want the law passed so they can avoid testing the soil, and avoid protecting the public if large amounts of asbestos are found.
Asbestos has been shown to cause cancer even in small amounts
, no safe level has been found, and one type, mesothelioma, is considered incurable.
Asbestos is very durable and does not break down in the environment
. Asbestos that leaves a construction site in dust caused by digging will land in the surrounding area and tend to remain there.
Asbestos can become airborne when the children play
if it lands on a children’s play area.
The body cannot break down asbestos
if it is inhaled and lodges in the body, meaning it continues to have an effect years after the exposure source is gone.
Current laws do not specify what to do when asbestos is found in soil
, although asbestos is very highly regulated if found in buildings. The state has privatized the oversight of contaminated properties, so property owners hire private consultants who have the final say.
For example, an engineering analysis of the concentration of asbestos in soil samples taken at the W. R. Grace property estimated 630,000 pounds of asbestos fibers in the soil, but there are no requirements for Grace except to follow the recommendations of the consultants they hired. This area is next to Russell Field and the baseball fields used by kids throughout the city.
What the Environmental Protection Agency says:
"The younger people are when they inhale asbestos, the more likely they are to develop mesothelioma. This is why enormous efforts are being made to prevent school children from being exposed."
What the American Academy of Pediatrics says:
The calculated risk of mesothelioma "escalates rapidly when time since first exposure exceeds about 40 years. Early childhood exposure, even at very low levels, thus becomes a significant factor."
For the sake of the future health of our children, please call the city councilors to let them know your support of this ordinance.