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USGS Report Identifies Asbestos Localities in the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S.
Released: 7/9/2007 5:53:20 PM

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A report published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) contains a regional map and associated database that inventory 61 locations of reported natural asbestos and fibrous amphibole occurrences in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States, including the states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The map is based on a search of scientific literature and does not identify any new occurrences of asbestos. It is the third in a series which originated in 2005 with a similar report for the Eastern United States and was followed in 2006 by a product that encompasses the Central United States.

USGS Open File Report 2007-1182, "Reported Historic Asbestos Mines, Historic Asbestos Prospects, and Natural Asbestos Occurrences in the Rocky Mountain States of the United States (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming)," corrects inaccurate locality information in previously published maps and data compilations at regional and national scales and includes additional published natural asbestos occurrences that appear in historic literature. This report is part of an ongoing effort to update existing national-scale databases on asbestos occurrences.

This USGS publication identifies the specific types of asbestos present in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. Previous regional to national scale maps do not describe the specific types of asbestos reported at many locations (for example chrysotile versus different amphibole asbestos varieties). This map identifies different types of asbestos and asbestiform minerals, but does not attempt to distinguish between substances that may or may not pose a risk to human health.

"This map is the third in a series aimed at providing a better understanding of the geographic distribution of the geologic environments in which asbestos formed across the nation," said USGS Director Mark Myers. "Due to considerable interest in this compilation effort, the first of its kind, the USGS will continue to update information on asbestos localities. The series has already proven to have applications for the public health, geologic, and environmental communities."

Asbestos is a generic name given to the fibrous variety of several naturally occurring minerals, the most common of which have been mined and used in commercial products. Asbestos is made up of fiber bundles. These bundles, in turn, are composed of long and thin fibers that can be easily separated from one another. Naturally-occurring asbestos (asbestos that occurs in its natural geologic environment as opposed to sites where asbestos products have been concentrated by human activities) has recently become the focus of concern and attention from the public health community, due to the potential exposures that may result if the asbestos-bearing rocks and soils are disturbed by natural erosion or human activities.

The Eastern United States report, published in 2005: Reported Historic Asbestos Mines, Historic Asbestos Prospects, and Natural Asbestos Occurrences in the Eastern United States.

The Central United States report, published in 2006:  Reported Historic Asbestos Prospects and Natural Asbestos Occurrences in the Central United States.

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