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Asbestos Piles or Pile of BS?

Posted by Ezekiel Hughes  
Ezekiel Hughes June 08, 2010 06:53AM
I just moved to a new area. I was quite stoked that I was two minutes from this creek as it is full of the rocks I like...rodingite, idocrase (vesuvianite) hydrogrossular garnet (hibschite) and jade (nephrite).......maybe. A few days ago I watched as this sign was erected:

Swift Creek, Everson WA Sumas Mt.:

It is private timberland, and being now posted is officially off limits. i realize that I will have to try to get special permission to collect on the creek now, but that seems unlikely as this probably has more to do with liability than public safety. My question is this: REALLY? Are we now going to start shutting down public access to all natural hazzards? I say, block off all access to the Grand might fall!

Washington State

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/08/2010 07:02AM by Ezekiel Hughes.
Jolyon & Katya Ralph June 08, 2010 09:39AM
open | download - warningsign.jpg (20.5 KB)
David Bernstein June 08, 2010 09:41AM
Well, the sign doesn't say, "entry forbidden."B)-
Frank de Wit June 08, 2010 11:22AM
I loved this sign a few weeks ago on Sicily...
It's the only sign that I know of with a mineral-name in it :)
open | download - warningsign-fluoroedenite.jpg (109.8 KB)
Mark Gottlieb June 08, 2010 12:26PM
I don't think it is possible to get wet asbestos airborne. More bad science and misinformation at work.
Jim Daly June 08, 2010 02:14PM
I agree with Mark. Further, most asbestiform minerals are not any more dangerous than any other airborne dust. The only nasty one is, if my memory serves me, crocidolite. I'd bet these people don't have a clue what mineral is present, and don't care. They are only reacting to be "politically correct" and cover their hind ends.
Franz Bernhard June 08, 2010 02:29PM
Hmmmm, ....stay indoors....
But avoid the bed under all circumstances! About 98% of all people die in the bed. So beware!
Franz Bernhard
Ralph Bottrill June 08, 2010 02:37PM
Despite the focus on crocoidolite and amosite asbestos, it seems that most respirable amphibole fibres are potentially carcinogenic and most amphiboles will form respirable fibre if crushed, but if they start fencing off all areas with amphiboles we will end up with a hell of a lot of country locked away. Its part of the natural environment and we should avoid breathing large amounts of any dust AFAP anyway. We all have thousands of asbestos fibre in our lungs (mostly from natural dusts and brake linings) and its very rare to cause problems except when there are really massive doses and you are a smoker. Falling off the horse is probably more dangerous.

Greg Kokolus June 08, 2010 03:29PM
Perhaps you may want to quietly ask a few questions as to why this sign was posted.
Someone within the Health Department might be willing to talk.
I'm guessing that an engineering firm or surveying team identified this area as having asbestos.
The words dredge piles suggest that something was going on with this area of the river and that they were moving material.
The members of Mindat tend to be a savy lot and we don't run screaming when we hear about asbestiform minerals or radioactivity.
That's because we understand what they are and the safeguards for handling such materials.
If there were heavy concentrations of naturally occuring Asbestos in the area, I don't think it isn't necessarily imprudent to point out the risks,
especially if people could play with rich samples found lying on the ground. "Look Mommy at the fuzzy rock I found, can I take it home?". You get the idea.

Greg Kokolus
Ezekiel Hughes June 08, 2010 06:50PM
Thanks Greg, I will be asking around. I agree that perhaps a warning is's the closeing of access that irks me. It is my understanding that a "private property" posting is the same as a "no trespassing" sign...though I could be wrong. Normally, in Washington state, unposted timberland is open to the public. I actually became aware of the site because of a web page from the health dept regarding the asbestos. I guess I'm the only person that would be happy to hear there's asbestos on a creek :-) I am uncertain why they would dredge it out of the creek...makes no sense to me. it is just timberland. There is a rather large landslide at the start of the creek from which the asbestos (and everything else) came from. this happened I believe several years ago...and I'm sure is just one of countless they will be dredging forever because that is the landscape. this is clearly an overreaction to a natural occurance. there may be a belief that it somehow poses a risk to the public down stream...once agian, there is nothing they can do about it unless they remove the entire mountain.
Anonymous User June 08, 2010 07:41PM
I understand your frustration, Zeke. But while you and many other mineral collectors (me included!) would be happy to get in the creek and take the risk, there are others out there who would jump at the chance to sue. I read that sign as evidence that there is proof somewhere (in the public domain) that the landowner and/or county has been informed that there are potentially dangerous asbestiform minerals in the creek, and that they have been advised by their lawyers that if they don't post, then they will be vulnerable to lawsuits. "The Corporation KNEW there were dangerous minerals in the creek, and didn't post a warning sign. And then my boy went rockhunting, and now Dr. Quack says he's got something, and I'm suing the Corporation for 6.8 million dollars."
Unfortunately, a symptom of our lawsuit-happy culture. The landowner is not necessarily at fault - rather the legions of people eager to get their settlement.
Best of luck jade-hunting round your new place.
Colleen Thomson June 08, 2010 10:13PM
i just LOVE your warning sign! :D

cheers, Colleen
Ezekiel Hughes June 08, 2010 11:17PM
A few answers....apparently they are dredging the lower portion of the creek to control flooding ....the landslide is dumping a lot of sediment into the creek (the landslide, which can be seen from the road, is a slow moving slide that is still moving) the time the sediment gets way down stream (past the sign btw) it settles and causes a greater risk of flooding in the populated areas. However, a study showed that there was not a higher incidence of asbestos related illness in the area, nor do they expect there to be. further, I don't think there are dredge piles on the upper creek area (above the sign)....but I don't know. A few links:

swift creek


So it is an over-reaction by the Whatcom County health dept. based on an EPA report. Sure, don't play on the dredge piles (the piles are on Farmland....I recall seeing them now heading toward Nooksack/Everson.)

I have an asbestos rated mask...maybe they'll let me in if I promise to wear it LOL! So this is REALLY about flooding, not asbestos...someone just jumped to the wrong conclusion when they heard the A word.
charles kraft June 09, 2010 05:54AM
A fun part of California has been locked off for similar reasons:


Based on the results of the Environmental Protection Agency’s CCMA Asbestos Exposure and Human Health Risk Assessment, the Bureau of Land Management Hollister Field Office has issued a Temporary Closure, effective May 1, 2008, to all forms of entry and public use for approximately 31,000 acres of public lands in the Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) to protect public health and safety.
Ray Hill June 09, 2010 06:02AM
The grim joke on all of us, is that if you have been driving for more than 20 years, you have asbestos dust in your lungs...why ...because all brake pads used to be made out of heat and fireproof densely packed asbestos, ground off while braking and stirred up while driving...ARRGH..that is why we use ceramiform brake pads now.
Keith Compton June 26, 2010 12:13AM
The town of Wittenoon in Western Australia has literally been "removed" from maps becasue of the tons and tons of blue asbestos lying around. The asbestos was even used in road construction. But the exposed ground itself and related mine dumps are not sealed. The wind blows this dust everywhere. There are also numerous abandoned asbestos mines in New South Wales and those dumps also are exposed to the elements. When the wind blows the asbestos dust spread around very easily.

When we note that some outback dust storms have resulted in dust being blown across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand then I am sure that most of us in NSW have been exposed to some amounts of asbestiform dust just from NSW mines. I'm sure that everyone on the east coast of Australia also have been exposed to radioactive dusts blown from Maralinga in South Australia where they carried out nuclear testing.

All of these mines and of course Maralinga rightly have signs advising of the dangers.

I don't think that the signs or in particular the sign to which Ezekial refers is BS or in deed as later mentioned, an over reaction.

It is unclear from the comments whether mining has actually been carried on there in the past, only current dredging of the creek. The sign merely informs that the area is unsafe and potentially dangerous. I guess if there is landslippage then that itself is a major danger which also should have been mentioned on the sign. If there has been any asbestos mining carried out in the area in the past then that will inevitably have created crushed asbestos, exposure to which you don't want. If naturally occuring asbestos has been exposed to the elements and has been eroded away due to either to the forces of nature or the impact of man then even those amounts of dust could potentially cause harm.

Is it an overaction ? ,,, maybe, but whether as just an average uninformed citizen or an experienced collector I would want to know or at least be advised of the potential dangers.

And Yes, before anyone chips in, all mining is dangerous and care needs to be taken, irrespective of above ground or below ground collecting. You could even slip over in a river while collecting and drown!.

The bigger problem is that of asbestos mines that have ceased and have not been fully remidiated. That just leaves a problem for some future generation.

Ezekiel Hughes June 26, 2010 12:30AM
Thanks for your comments. Just to clear some things up, the sign does more than just warn of potential dangers. It's verbage "private property" shuts down access to the timberlands that otherwise would be open. It also says you may not remove material....I'm uncertain the point of that...unless they invision folks taking handfuls of the fine grianed sediment home, drying it out and snorting it....there is no danger picking up a rock...they are the same kind of rocks I collect throughout the Cascades.

No mining, just a land slide at the headwaters.

And a correction...there are dredge piles on the creek past the sign as well as below it...I just didn't notice them before. They were selling for fill, cement and what not at I guess it's just going to sit there.
Eric D. Fritzsch June 26, 2010 12:19PM
How many mindaters are familiar with the Ban Asbestos Act which the United States Senate passed in 2007? Luckily Congress hasn't approved it or it could have an impact on mineral dealing. It has some very broadly worded language which would prohibit the sale of:

"(3) ELONGATED MINERAL PARTICLE- The term `elongated mineral particle' means a single crystal or similarly elongated polycrystalline aggregate particle with a length to width ratio of 3 to 1 or greater.

(4) BIOPERSISTENT ELONGATED MINERAL PARTICLE- The term `biopersistent elongated mineral particle' means an elongated mineral particle that--

(A) occurs naturally in the environment; and

(B) is similar to asbestos in--

(i) resistance to dissolution;

(ii) leaching; and

(iii) other physical, chemical, or biological processes expected from contact with lung cells and other cells and fluids in the human body."

This act, if passed, could outlaw the sale of many asbestos-like mineral specimens, but also non asbestos minerals like tourmaline (3:1 ratio, resistant to dissolution, etc). We could all be stuck only collecting isometric water-soluble minerals.

Yes, asbestos containing building materials did and does cause a lot of health problems. But when riebeckite is outlawed, then only outlaws will have riebeckite.
Ralph Bottrill June 26, 2010 02:30PM
Mineralogists and geologists worldwide are struggling to get some common sense into the environmental regulations. They are devised by epidemiologists and bureacrats who devise their own mineralogical definitions as you note above.

Joseph Polityka June 26, 2010 03:20PM

These fears obvioiusly has been created by politicians and a compliant dumbed down media who sit in their studios in major cities, insulated from trom the real world. I live in a country in which most people don't care what they pump into their bodies but yet they panic when they hear the words asbestos, radon, radioactivity, coal and oil. The entire approach to these issues is contradictory and hypocritical with no critic offering any alternative to getting rid of these hazards. Artificial fertilizers, for example, are always on the list of to be banned products yet bureaucrats in Washington want to fine farmers in the state of Pennsylvania for using MANURE as a fertilizer because they contend the use of same is contaminating the Chesapeake Watershed which, of course, drains past Washington, DC.

I spoke with a couple of these bureaucratcs recently and was shocked and aggravated by their flippant attitude relative to the contradictions in their beliefs and the economic disaster that would occur. Do you recall the media created hysteria surrounding the approach of year 2000? Planes were supposed to fall out of the sky, ships would stop, power plants would shut down and all sorts of computer programs would crash. Recently, the media was obscessed with the bird flu and pumped out thousands of hours and pages of stories about an epidemic (according to them) that would kill millions. Fox News, with its dyed blonde headed bimbos, was the worst offender.

Recently the media reported a story about a suggestion to put a dome over a volcano in Hawaii to prevent gasses from affecting the surrounding vegetation. This is proof (in my humble opinion) that science and logic will never win. The boogey man is alive and well in the United States, so as Jolyon suggests: stay at home!

Best wishes,


Eat more hoagies and avoid heroes, bombers, grinders, submarines and torpedos.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/26/2010 03:28PM by Joseph Polityka.
Joseph Polityka June 26, 2010 03:58PM

For your viewing pleasure, from the civilian and media outlets: Civilian visitors to Asbestos, Canada. CGC report.


Rob Woodside June 26, 2010 04:32PM
Apparently the export of Thetford asbestos is complicated by Quebec/ Canada politics. There are now less than a few hundred jobs involved and both governments have been falling all over themselves to support the mining and export. I haven't recently heard that Thetford asbestos is the "safe kind of asbestos" that the CBC mentioned in Joe's video. The current mantra is that there is no problem when safely handled. Recently the CBC went to India, one of the major customers, to view the "safe handling". Bits of rags served as "breathing apparatus" amid clouds of asbestos dust. Older relatives of the young workers all had mesothelioma. It was quite tragic, but at least the Feds aren't running roughshod over the desires of the Quebecois to pursue their national destiny.
Gord Howe June 26, 2010 07:55PM
Wow, this is an interesting topic. Over the years I have witnessed asbestos and many other materials turn from common everyday stuff to "lethal in any dose monsters". Mercury, cadmium, DDT,hydrogen sulphide, lead, nickel, hexivalent chrome...all fit into this catagory and the list gets longer all the time. Are these things as dangerous as they say? Most definitely yes, especially if improperly handled. The safety people like OSHA have developed extensive procedures for dealing with these things and protecting people from them. Does this signage fall into this? I'll bet it does, cause if they don't comply they will be writing a big cheque to OSHA before they even get sued. They call that due diligence. As far as the rest of it goes, I think we will do OK with Global Warming whether it is caused by deforestation or cow farts,I'm not worried about volcanic gases poisoning me in my sleep and despite what the History Channel says,I will have turkey on Christmas Day 2012.The sad reality is that we can look forward to more of the same as time goes on.
Jim Bean June 27, 2010 02:07AM
California is looking to change the state rock due to one of the minerals in serpentine being asbestos. Link
I haven't heard what they will decide to replace it with.
Michael Hatskel June 27, 2010 03:27AM
If people are selling beads with the healing powers to treat/prevent anything including breast cancer (saw that on a mineral show earlier this year), why couldn't those guys come up with the asbestos risk-mitigating beads?! People would gladly wear such beads when they need to enter any areas where ultramafic rocks are present. B)
Ezekiel Hughes June 27, 2010 04:00AM
Michael Hatskel Wrote:
> If people are selling beads with the healing
> powers to treat/prevent anything including breast
> cancer (saw that on a mineral show earlier this
> year), why couldn't those guys come up with the
> asbestos risk-mitigating beads?! People would
> gladly wear such beads when they need to enter any
> areas where ultramafic rocks are present. B)

LOL! Put me down for two. I'm sure the health dept. will find this an acceptable compromise...bad science countered with pseudo-science!

here are the new OSHA guidelines for rockhounding in easy to understand pictiures:

OSHA approved rockhounding:

Non-OSHA approved rockhounding;



Washington State

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/27/2010 04:17AM by Ezekiel Hughes.
andy givens June 27, 2010 11:39AM
ok, so now im not sure on what to do......
i collected a bunch of really nice serpentine, with thin layers of chrysotile in it......
is this dangerous to be collecting????
should i stop?????
Van King June 27, 2010 03:06PM
I would argue that the new regulations would prohibit the sale of statues, figurines, lollipops, Hero-style and Italian-style delicatessen sandwiches, etc. because they qualify as asbestos. The "aspect ratio" for defining asbestos is so ludicrous that I am still wondering why it is used. The sign in question is a classic example of health officials trying to appear proactive in the face of an imaginary problem. Originally the aspect ratio was used because no one could agree on what constitutes asbestos, similar to the problem of what is a mineral. If the people who are worried about asbestos issues need easy definitions, they do not understand the problem. I've worked with asbestos abatement issues and know that abusacrats try to appear knowledgeable when they do not really know what the problem is. Enforcing a regulation appears knowledge-driven. If the law passes, we will no longer see the following items for sale: tripods for cameras, golf clubs, garden stakes, brooms, shovels, ballpoint pens, lamps, cigarettes, etc. for sale as they almost always have an aspect ratio of 3:1. If you use spine width ratio to cover height, then cell phones and books will also be banned. If the say "mineral aspect ratio" or some such, it wouldn't change much as the above items mostly contain synthetic minerals to some extent. Ralph's answer is particularly appropriate. Most of the Appalachian, Ozark, Sierra Nevada, Coastal Range, and Rocky Mountains will have to be declared superfund sites and have to be encased in protective materials. Does anyone know who is on the bill's committee?

Best Wishes, Van King
Jolyon & Katya Ralph June 27, 2010 03:29PM
Andy said

>ok, so now im not sure on what to do......
>i collected a bunch of really nice serpentine, with thin layers of chrysotile in it......
>is this dangerous to be collecting????
>should i stop?????

No-one here is qualified to give health advice about such issues, it's up to you to make your own decisions or consult an expert. The risk from asbestiform minerals is from inhaling of fibrous particles, so there is no risk for example from specimens in sealed plastic boxes.
Joseph Polityka June 27, 2010 03:29PM

Great information; now I can discuss the issue with my paranoid friends.

Go to this link and you will see the list of sponsors and co-sponsors in Congress;

Not being judgemental, but I wonder what these people would say if they found this crystal structure in pot? Do you remember the formaldahyde in beer scare from a few years ago?



Eat more hoagies and avoid heroes, bombers, grinders, submarines and torpedos.
Ed Godsey June 29, 2010 05:08PM
Joseph Polityka Wrote:
> Go to this link and you will see the list of
> sponsors and co-sponsors in Congress;
> -742
> Not being judgemental, but I wonder what these
> people would say if they found this crystal
> structure in pot? Do you remember the
> formaldahyde in beer scare from a few years ago?

Being a resident of Washington state I'm not surprised that Patty "mom in tennis shoes" Murray attempted to get this POS passed. She was voted the second dumbest member of Congress by the whole Senate staff a couple of years ago. Also note that 20 of the 21 co-sponsors were Progressives, the current term for Socialists.

Easy Goin'
Linda Smith June 29, 2010 09:07PM
The next thing "mom in tennis shoes" will do is ban eating fish due to mercury and heavy metal content! Wish the politicians would leave us the heck alone. Most of the fun sites I collected in the 1970's in California are off limits and now here in Washington state they are trying to do the same. Let us choose whether we want to expose ourselves to the "dangers" of collecting. Enough regulation!

Linda Smith
Rock Mama and Boogie Boarding Grandma
Ezekiel Hughes June 30, 2010 02:33AM
Honestly I don't know anything about that bill. I'm sure you all are right that it is poorly written by folks who may not truely understand the science (or lack thereof) behind it. I also bet there is a lot of good points in the least in intention. With all the issues that politicians have to address, I think it is silly to believe that they must all be experts in everything. Instead of a knee jerk reaction calling for the removal of "socialists" (where have I heard that bs before?) why not offer your expertise to your rep so they can change the bill so it makes more sense? And as far as this country needing less regulation....we got that for 8 years....ask the folks around the Gulf how that's working out for them. This isn't about a progressive agenda...this is about bad science. We are a very small minority of folks that are adversly affected by these kinds of issues...our voices, and our reasonable points, are simply not heard. There is no conspiracy. To believe so is to shut out any hope of bringing reason to the political process.
In regards to Swift Creek, the simple fact is, is that the owners have the right to post thier property however they want. That's a conservative value is it not? These issues of access have nothing to do with weather you are a conservative or a progressive. I'm personally sick and tired of hearing about the 'tyranny' of government...and even more tired of having to hear it on forums where one would hope folks would be a little more cerebral...this is the are the government.

However, I have no reservations giving bureaucracies a hard time. We all know they are thier own beast that need constant monitoring by the public.

I should know better than to respond to a partisan post, but my comrades might take me out to the quarry and shoot me if I don't respond on a thread I started ;-)

And in regards to changing the state rock in CA...yes, that's just asinine.

Washington State

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/30/2010 02:39AM by Ezekiel Hughes.
Ralph Bottrill June 30, 2010 03:07PM
The problem is the issue gets hijacked by OHS workers who beat it up to generate more work for themselves. If you mention words like silica or asbestiform they get all excited and suddenly have everyone running about wetting themselves. I have been involved with asbestos counting and the regulations say you must count a 3:1 mineral particle (or hair etc) as asbestos even when you know its not. There was a good discussion in the mineral magazine Elements: June 2009 of the lack of mineralogy in asbestos regulations.

Ezekiel Hughes July 14, 2010 08:54AM
Here is a new group on Facebook everyone on Mindat should join in regards to this subject:!/group.php?gid=132118583490156
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