A cancer connection investigative report
The prospect is chilling: by best estimates, about 20 million people have had significant exposure to cancer causing asbestos on the job. Three hundred thousand Americans are expected to die of asbestos related cancer in the next twenty to thirty years. Now, the deadly substance is contaminating drinking water around the continent.
Asbestos is one of the most potent carcinogens known to man. Cancer now claims at least one life an hour among people who inhaled it on the job. As many as 200,000 wives and children of asbestos workers will also grow ill merely from washing asbestos laden clothes or being exposed at their homes.
The American Congress passed legislation in 1984 to control asbestos hazards in the building materials of 31,000 schools attended by some 13 million children. And asbestos is present in millions of houses, apartments and buildings.
Now, alarming levels of invisible, needle like fibers of asbestos have been discovered in tap water. Much of it comes from an estimated 400,000 miles of asbestos cement water pipe. Enough to circle the globe sixteen times. Buried beneath hundreds of North American cities.
Yet scientists and government officials can not agree on how serious this hazard actually is, or even on what levels are acceptable. “We believe asbestos breathed is a definite carcinogen”, says Dave Ryan, a press officer for the Environmental Protection Agency, “but as far as asbestos in water, the jury is still out”.
The people of Woodstock NY know the worry first hand. In late 1985, so much asbestos was in the tap water that it clogged the town’s pipes. Health officials warned citizens not to drink the water, to limit showers and to keep asbestos contaminated water out of humidifiers.
Tara Roberts, a thirty one year old business woman and mother, is the leader of the citizen’s group Asbestos Free Woodstock. When she first heard Woodstock’s health warning, she thought of her one year old daughter, who had had a cold. On her pediatricians advice she’d covered the crib and put a vaporizer beside it.
“I realized that the vaporizer was probably putting asbestos into the air she breathed,” Robers grimly recalls. “I was horrified.” For over a year, she has hauled gallons of…….