Tuzkoy Residents at High Risk of Mesothelioma


2010-11-05 12:05

If you live in the impoverished village of Tuzkoy, Turkey, you will soon be relocated due to an extremely high risk of mesothelioma. Almost half the deaths in Tuzkoy and nearby villages Sarihidir and Karainare from mesothelioma.

Approximately 48% of deaths among the three villages are from mesothelioma. Since the 1980s when officials noted the issue, several hundred residents are believed to have died of mesothelioma due to exposure to the mineral erionite which resembles asbestos. The erionite exposure to the villagers come from the stones and paints they use to build homes.

Moving the residents should eliminate the risk of mesothelioma cancer

Approximately 250 families have moved into alternate housing one mile away and the remaining population of 2,350 will move when more homes become available. The move is being subsidized by the state to help the impoverished residents.

Once the residents have been resettle, the plans for the old village are reported to be “to demolish the old village, bury it in 1 1/2 meters of earth and plant over it.” However, the Turkish government has not made a final decision on whether to bury the village under dirt, pave it over with asphalt, or attempt to keep people away.

Erionite is a naturally occurring, microscopic, fibrous mineral. It usually is found in volcanic ash that has been altered by weathering and ground water. Some properties of erionite are similar to the properties of asbestos; however, erionite is not currently regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of the six asbestos fibers.

In the United States, North Dakota has a significant amount of erionite which has led geologist Ed Murphy to first notified the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) several years ago upon learning the mineral was being linked to mesothelioma in Turkey.

Mark Dihle, environmental scientist for the department of health’s division of air quality, said, “We didn’t find an increase in mesothelioma, but it [the study] does suggest that possible high exposure to road gravel can possibly lead to [lung] changes.” The study, which began in March 2009, did not discover an increase in mesothelioma incidence, but did report occupational exposure to erionite gravel can cause lung tissue damage. The type of lung tissue changes found in the study was similar to those found in occupational asbestos exposure.

The EPA reports erionite is found in at least 12 states in the western United States, but not to the same degree found in western North Dakota (where the mineral has been used on many rural roads). The EPA also reports that erionite has been shown to cause cancer in lab rats, but the mineral remains unregulated by the agency.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body's internal organs. Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles. Because there is no cure for this disease, the mesothelioma life expectancy for most patients averages between four and 18 months after diagnosis.