Ocean Springs, Mississippi - Nearly 30 acres of Horn Island is contaminated with asbestos and possibly mustard gas. The announcement made on Monday by Dan Brown, Superintendent of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, also includes an indefinite closure of the area.
Last week, the Gulf Islands National Seashore “received confirmation Thursday that there are asbestos materials on the ground on the northwestern shore of the island in an area that contains the remains of a military facility that was active in the 1940s,” said Brown.
Brown also announced that initial testing showed that the area may also be contaminated with mustard gas. Brown cautioned that the mustard gas findings are waiting confirmation. It is suspected that containers of mustard gas – a chemical agent commonly used by the United States military for combat – may have leached into the ground. Broken asbestos tiles were found on the seashore.
Immediately after the discovery of the asbestos, the affected area was quarantined to protect the public and the Gulf Islands National Seashore employees.
The discovery of the carcinogens asbestos and mustard gas came from a chemical impact study commissioned by British Petroleum after the Deep Horizon disaster. Carried out by the National Park Service and environmental clean up subcontractors, the study found asbestos and potentially mustard gas in the area.
However, these contaminants are unrelated to the Deep Horizon disaster.
According to the findings, the type of asbestos found on Horn Island is chrysotile, one of the more common forms of the asbestos mineral family. Asbestos was used in a wide variety of capacities during the heyday of its manufacturing, and asbestos was also heavily used in military installations across the country.
Known for its versatility, durability, fire resistance and sound absorption properties, asbestos was often used in conjunction with other materials like concrete. If the asbestos particles become broken a part – as it is suspected with the found broken asbestos tiles on Horn Island – the miniscule particles become airborne allowing for exposure to increase.
Inhaling asbestos particles is incredibly dangerous and will lead to devastating diseases. Though asbestos exposure typically leads to severe lung conditions like pleural mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, it can also have damaging effects on internal organs.