Team still studying erioniteThe North Dakota Department of Health is trying to recruit volunteers from the southwest area of the state to participate in an erionite study, and has extended the deadline until June 12 in hopes of doing so.
By: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press
The North Dakota Department of Health is trying to recruit volunteers from the southwest area of the state to participate in an erionite study, and has extended the deadline until June 12 in hopes of doing so.
Erionite is a naturally occurring mineral with properties similar to asbestos, which is in gravel on rural county roads. Residents from Dunn, Slope and Stark counties are needed to fill out questionnaires to be considered for the study on the mineral’s effect on the body. Volunteers chosen for the study get $100.
Erionite may pose health risks to those who breathe in the fibers and has been linked to health problems in Turkey, according to the Health Department.
The study is targeted toward those who work in high erionite areas, such as ranchers, farmers, road maintenance crews, professional drivers and gravel pit workers.
The department is stepping up its effort to recruit participants.
“We did do a mailing to about 9,000 residents through the Environmental Protection Agency for residents from Watford City down to Bowman,” said Mark Dihle, a North Dakota Department of Health Air Quality Division scientist.
So far, Dihle said the department has about half the questionnaires needed for the study.
“We’re hoping to get a few more back,” Dihle said. “We’re looking for qualified applicants, but anyone who lives up there, fill it out and go through it and send it in.”
Those chosen to participate will go through a longer survey and also undergo a chest X-ray and CT scan, to be done in Dickinson. The results will be sent to the University of Cincinnati Medical School to be studied.
Patrick Ryan, an epidemiologist with the university, said the medical team involved will look for scarring of the lungs.
Ryan said the team will be able to determine if the damage is more than likely from erionite if it mimics damage that occurs from fibrous minerals such as asbestos.
“One thing we’re doing, is that we’re going to try to have people that are enrolled in the study not have other asbestos exposure so we can try to rule out asbestos,” Ryan said. “That really leaves only a few things that can be associated with them.”
Dihle said once the results are evaluated, a plan can be formed on how erionite should be handled.
“Once the initial report is done, they’ll get a detailed report from the doctor’s examination,” Dihle said. “The results of the screening will give us more information on what people’s bodies do with the fiber.”
Any potential health problems found in the initial examination in Dickinson will be discussed with the patient and kept confidential.
The study is expected to cost more than $100,000, according to the EPA.
For more information, visit www.ndhealth.gov.