High Levels of Asbestos Detected in the Drinking Water of a South Texas City

Toxic Tort

On November 28, 2016, the residents of Devine, a city located approximately 40 miles southwest of San Antonio, Texas, received a letter informing them that the levels of asbestos in the drinking water have exceeded the permissible limit established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Although research and numerous studies have gathered undeniable evidence supporting the hazardous health effects of asbestos exposure over the course of the last decades, the mandatory note issued by the City of Devine states that the situation does not represent an emergency and that the use of an alternative water source is not necessary.

Increased concentrations of asbestos have been found in the water samples of Devine since January 2016. However, the residents were only recently warned. While the Maximum Contaminant Level set by EPA is 7 million fibers of asbestos per liter (MFL), water samples analyzed within the past year revealed extremely high levels of up to 44 million fibers per liter in Devine’s drinking water. The problem appears to have arisen at the beginning of 2016, since the concentration of toxic minerals was safely below the permissible limit in 2015 (0.2 MFL). According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, who also allowed Mayor Bill Herring to continue using the same water source, the alarming levels are most likely caused by defective sampling.

Nevertheless, most residents of Devine are quite concerned, as the risks associated with exposure to asbestos are by no means negligible. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, no level of asbestos is truly safe. The effects of prolonged exposure to these minerals are far more serious than what the casual warning included in the public note states (“some people who drink water containing asbestos in excess of the MCL over many years may have an increased risk of developing benign intestinal polyps”).

Prolonged exposure to asbestos is responsible for the death of over 12,000 Americans annually. Asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a very aggressive form of cancer affecting the outer lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen, are only a few of the numerous severe, often terminal conditions that frequent contact with this carcinogen can cause. Moreover, the ingestion of large amounts of asbestos fibers has been correlated with a series of other types of malignant diseases, including gastrointestinal, colorectal, gallbladder and kidney cancer, although additional evidence is required to support the causal relation. It is worthy of note that it may take several decades for fibers of asbestos to cause serious health issues, as cancers associated with these toxic minerals generally entail a long latency period of up to 50 years.

Devine has not experienced a spike in the concentration of asbestos in drinking water since 2007. Nevertheless, the city is currently “researching the issue and will address it as soon as possible”.

Have You or a Family Member Been Exposed to Asbestos?

Exposure to asbestos is unfortunately far from representing a rare occurrence, even though the employment of these carcinogenic minerals is strictly regulated in the U.S. Numerous companies turn a blind eye to the use of asbestos, thus exposing their workers to tremendous health dangers, while others are responsible for environmental pollution. If you or a loved one has been in prolonged contact with asbestos, regardless of the context of exposure, we strongly encourage you to seek quality legal representation, as you may be eligible for substantial compensation.

This blog post has been submitted by attorney Gregory Cade of the Environmental Litigation Group. View his profile here.

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