Asbestos is the mineral that causes malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer and many other serious and fatal illnesses: the material has caused heartache all over the world. As lawmakers ban and restrict the material and create regulations for how it is to be handled or disposed of, a group of researchers from New Zealand are working towards an innovative method of eliminating asbestos that is already in place, relying on the plant world to assist in the process.
The researchers hail from Unitec, Auckland, New Zealand’s largest technology institute, and they are well aware of the ravages caused by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Looking beyond the sad truths of those who were exposed to asbestos decades ago in occupational settings, the scientists are concerned about the impact of asbestos products imported into their company decades ago, and which are today posing a threat to those who encounter it in their homes and the nation’s infrastructure. Terri-Ann Berry speaks of home renovators and asbestos products being dumped in landfills, while her research partner Gregor Steinhorn speaks of asbestos roofing tiles and other building materials. At best, these products are sealed and buried in dedicated landfills, while in many instances their treatment is more careless, leaving dangerous asbestos-contaminated products exposed to the elements. Eventually humans could inhale or ingest their fibers, leading to yet another generation impacted by the deadly carcinogen.
To answer this problem and prevent future cases of mesothelioma, the Unitec researchers are experimenting with the use of microorganisms such as lichens and other plants that will break the asbestos down in their search for the iron that the material contains. Though they are uncertain as to how long this organic process would take, or even whether the process would render the asbestos harmless, similar approaches have been successful with other types of dangerous materials. The group is collaborating with international medical experts. One of the researchers said, “We’ve seen some really good indications that this can work and we’re really excited about giving it a try.”
While scientists continue to work on both curing mesothelioma and preventing it in the future, others are working to get justice for those who have already been affected. If you need information on how we can help, contact us today at 1-800-966-2244.