May 15, 1998
ILLINOIS BEACH STATE PARK SAFE FOR PUBLIC USE
SPRINGFIELD, IL Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, today announced that, after a thorough analysis of Illinois Beach State Park air, water and sand for possible asbestos contamination, it has been determined the popular recreation area is safe for public use.
"We believe people can safely visit and enjoy this treasured natural resource," Dr. Lumpkin said. "Asbestos was not detected in the air or water and extremely low levels of asbestos, well below any human health concern, were found in only a handful of the sand samples."
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will continue to closely patrol the six-mile beach for any asbestos-containing material that may wash up on shore, and signs and brochures at the park will advise visitors to report any such materials to the park office. Examples of what the asbestos-containing materials look like also will be available at the park.
Efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and others to identify the source of the asbestos-containing materials are continuing.
About 200 air, water and sand samples were collected in March by an independent contractor, Hanson Engineers of Springfield, hired by DNR. The samples were analyzed by TEM Inc. of Glen Ellyn and the results were reviewed by representatives of IDPH, DNR and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
Since no standards have been established for outdoor exposure to asbestos, strict federal indoor standards for schools were applied to the sand samples that were positive for asbestos. The asbestos content of the positive samples was less than 1 percent, the level of concern for asbestos in an enclosed classroom. The USEPA states that only material containing greater than 1 percent asbestos is considered asbestos-containing material.
Air samples were collected aggressively, which means that blowers were used to stir the sand and air for 30 minutes immediately before collecting the sample. This method assured that any asbestos fibers that might have settled to the ground would be reintroduced into the air, resulting in a greater likelihood that they would be captured in the sample.
The air samples and 10 percent of the sand samples were analyzed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), which utilizes an electron microscope capable of 20,000 magnification for detecting extremely small fibers or parts of fibers. The remainder of the sand samples were analyzed by polarized light microscopy, a more common method that uses less magnification but is still able to detect very small fibers.
Although it unlikely a child would eat an appreciable amount of sand, the asbestos levels in the few sand samples from the beach and shoreline that were positive for asbestos (23 of 179 samples) were so low that they would not be considered a health risk.
The health risks of asbestos exposure depend primarily on how much is inhaled and over what period of time. Studies first identified health problems associated with asbestos in ship workers during World War II. These workers, who used no respiratory protection, routinely handled asbestos insulation that was utilized to wrap ship boilers. Their long-term exposures to high concentrations of asbestos in the air led to asbestosis (a hardening of the lungs that makes breathing difficult), mesothelioma (a cancer of the chest lining) and lung cancer.
Exposure to small amounts of asbestos for short time periods has not been found to be associated with human disease.
Low levels of asbestos are commonly found in the environment, such as in high traffic areas due to the wearing of automobile brakes or in drinking water taken from a large body of water.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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