Southern Nevada is a land of rocky hills and dunes; but what has been found in that area is proving to be a danger to residents. In a study by geologists Dr. Brenda Buck and Dr. Rodney Metcalf, it was found that there are large amounts of natural asbestos-bearing mineral deposits from the southern shore of Lake Mead to the McCullough Range, specifically around Boulder City, the eastern part of Henderson, and Las Vegas.
Asbestos deposits have been known for many years in the area, and were even mined for commercial use. However, commercial development and natural erosion began sending asbestos fibers into the air – and subsequently into the lungs of people in the area. Dr. Metcalf and Dr. Buck found that these fibers were similar both in size and shape to those in Libby, Montana known to cause mesothelioma. An epidemiologist from the University of Hawaii, Francine Baumann, found a disturbing pattern of mesothelioma among residents of the areas. Because of these findings, the Nevada Department of Transportation has delayed construction of the Boulder City Bypass that would run through an asbestos-rich area.
At this time, scientists do not fully understand the ramifications of naturally occurring asbestos fibers. Geoffrey Plumlee, a geochemist at the United States Geological Survey, stated, “We need lots of information available to try to make good decisions.”