Officials in Henderson, Nevada, forge ahead with plans to possibly annex and develop parts of the Eldorado Valley despite geologists concerns about the presence of naturally occurring asbestos in the ground.
While official annexation remains delayed, city officials continue studying the proposal and negotiating with developers, Henderson Public Works assistant director Robert Herr told TV8 News.
The city council in June voted to consider the proposal after developers and landowners pitched the idea of building homes and businesses on a four-square-mile site mostly south of current city limits.
This comes despite a study two University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) geologists published in 2014 that revealed evidence of naturally occurring asbestos from the Eldorado Valley to neighboring Arizona.
Danger Exists Regardless of Asbestos Levels
“When you do activities with that soil, it can generate dust that is hazardous,” said UNLV medical geologist Dr. Brenda Buck. “It’s just insane to build these new developments when we don’t even know what the risk will be to the people who live there now.”
Herr counters that while the city’s own testing confirmed the presence of the known carcinogens in the soil, the concentration registered below unsafe levels.
“Primarily, they come up as nondetect, but we had a few that are less than .25 percent, but we also don’t have any that are above .25 percent in the city limits,” Herr said.
Buck maintains no level of the cancer causing substance is safe.
“The concentration in the soil there is just not a linear relationship there, so you can have soil with absolutely very low levels, even where there is nondetect for asbestos,” she said.
More Killer Cancer Found in Nevada
Meanwhile, an unrelated study suggests that environmental exposure to asbestos may be related to a higher incidence of malignant mesothelioma in Nevada where the deadly fibers are in the soil.
Researchers from Hawaii, Nevada and Pennsylvania examined mesothelioma mortality data and discovered the percentage of women and individuals younger than 55 was elevated in southern Nevada counties, as compared to other counties across the nation.
The report published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology stated: “Environmental exposure to mineral fibers in southern Nevada may be contributing to some of these mesotheliomas.”
Asbestos Exposure: Occupational vs. Environmental
In comparison, occupational exposure to asbestos resulting in mesothelioma occurs four to eight times more often in men than in women with a median age of 74 years. Mesothelioma from environmental asbestos exposure occurs at the same rate for men and women at younger ages.
Whether asbestos exposure occurs through occupational or environmental sources, its pathway into the body is the same. The deadly fibers enter through inhalation, lodging in lung tissue where they can remain latent for 10-40 years, eventually causing cancerous tumor growth known as malignant mesothelioma.
Those with the disease live an average of one year after diagnosis.
City Officials Eager to Move Forward
The Henderson city council appears determined to pursue the annexation of the almost 3,000 acres despite concerns. This past June council members unanimously voted to advance plans to study the issue.
“It’s an important gateway in the city of Henderson,” councilwoman Debra March told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Mayor Andy Hafen cited past annexations as the reason the city is the second populous city in Nevada.
Despite forward motion on the project, Herr maintains that city officials take the asbestos issue seriously and are working diligently to understand it before any official annexation process begins.