Landscapers and Mesothelioma

Asbestos in Soil Starts Mesothelioma Growing in Landscapers

You’re a landscaper. You design and maintain the grounds of buildings, new and old.

In the course of your work, you come into contact with products that contain asbestos. Because of that contact, you are vulnerable to being afflicted with mesothelioma.

Your risk for developing mesothelioma is likely low to moderate.

Products you use that have in times past been found to contain asbestos include:

  • Potting soil

  • Fertilizer

  • Woodchips

  • Concrete

As you know, vermiculite is a popular ingredient of potting soils and soil amenders because it so nicely supports root drainage and aeration. What you might not know is that most of the vermiculite used in potting soil until the 1990s came from a single mine in Libby, Montana.Unfortunately, that same mine also contained a super abundance of asbestos. So the miners brought up along with the excavated vermiculite a certain amount of asbestos in every ore car. The vermiculite and the asbestos were then poured together into potting soil and soil amender sacks for distribution and eventual sale.

Although the mine shut down in the 1990s, some unsold or unopened sacks of these products still sit in supply rooms and maintenance sheds around the country. The Libby mine also is blamed for the contamination of landscaping bark and woodchips sold nationally between 2007 and 2011.

Reports indicate that the trees from which the bark and chips were culled had been contaminated by Libby mine asbestos-dust caught by the wind and blown into the nearby forest.

Sometimes, asbestos is not in a product purchased for a landscaping project. Instead, it’s found in the native soil with which you’re working. The Environmental Protection Agency states that there are naturally occurring deposits of asbestos in the soils of many residential neighborhoods and commercially zoned areas from coast to coast.

You also come into contact with asbestos when you construct mortarless segmental concrete masonry wall units. Until the 1980s, it was common to add asbestos to the blocks in these wall units in order to make them less prone to cracking and chipping.

Asbestos also was added to the concrete you mixed and used to fill voids between those blocks.

Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma

Why asbestos causes mesothelioma is not fully understood. The only thing known for sure is that asbestos is the culprit.

The trouble begins when you cause asbestos contained within a landscaping product to become disturbed. It takes very little to disturb asbestos. Mowing, trimming, pruning, shoveling, raking and hoeing are enough to do the trick if ground conditions are dry enough.

Demolishing an old mortarless segmental concrete masonry wall unit or roughing up its surfaces for repairs can likewise disturb asbestos.

Disturbing asbestos allows fibers of the mineral to break loose and get into the air. Airborne asbestos can then be inhaled or swallowed by you. Neither one is a good thing.

Once asbestos is inside you, it works like potting soil. The big difference is that what grows is not plant life but cancerous mesothelioma.

This doesn’t happen immediately. Asbestos needs decades inside your lungs to trigger cancer.

Two Unions, One Desire

Many landscapers choose to join either the International Brotherhood of Teamsters or the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

One thing both unions share is a desire to help their members avoid the plague of mesothelioma. Through various programs and policy efforts, they work diligently to educate about asbestos safety.

These unions also provide access to good medical insurance plans. If you happen to be covered by one such plan, utilize it right away to see a doctor who specializes in mesothelioma diagnosis.

You might not have the symptoms of mesothelioma when you make the appointment. But if you’ve been exposed to asbestos, you owe it to yourself and loved ones to be vigilant for the first signs of the disease.