More than 500 current and former residents of a West Dallas, Texas, neighborhood that was home to a vermiculite plant showed up for a recent asbestos screening, officials said.
Parkland Memorial Hospital used a $250,000 state grant to X-ray up to 300 people. But a higher turnout meant officials had to make a list of residents who were turned away.
“People are hurting and sick, and they’re looking for any way to get help,” said Sue Pickens, Parkland’s director of strategic planning, as the waiting room overflowed.
In 2005, the federal government determined that the Texas Vermiculite plant could have exposed its employees and neighbors to asbestos.
W.R. Grace & Co. operated the plant from 1953 to 1992 before it was demolished between 2001 and 2002. It produced fire-retardant materials extracted from vermiculite. The process released asbestos fibers, which are small enough to be inhaled, into the air and the surrounding area.
Human exposure to the fibers increases the risk of lung cancer and other disorders, including asbestosis, a condition that makes breathing difficult. Most cases occur 15 or more years after initial exposure.
Health officials screened 25 people with chest X-rays in May. Eight of them showed signs of asbestos-related disease. Further testing is needed to confirm those results.
“It was higher than we were expecting,” said D. Brad Walsh, a Parkland senior planner, who organized the screening campaign.
Parkland had sent letters to former employees of the plant and people known to have lived nearby. Last week, Parkland issued a media alert asking for the workers and neighbors to participate in the screening.
The University of Texas Medical Center at Tyler is providing a radiologist to read the X-rays. Officials said they hope to have test results from the screenings completed by August.
Kevin Moran, 56, said he attended the screening because he worked at the plant in the summers of 1969 and 1970.
“I remember the houses nearby, and I remember the dust around the plant. I don’t remember it in the air, but surely, it must have gone into the surrounding neighborhood,” said Moran, an architect. “It’s just that nobody thought it was an issue back then.”
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, www.dallasnews.com.
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