For the citizens of Georgia, asbestos exposure is an area of grave concern. As such, information on the management, abatement, and proper disposal of asbestos is made readily available to Georgia citizens by their state chapter of the Environmental Information Association. In addition, the state’s numerous industrial mines put residents of Georgia at an elevated risk of asbestos exposure and related disease.
The potential for asbestos exposure in mining is greatly increased by the geology of Georgia in relationship to the Southern Appalachians. The Southern Appalachians, which are estimated to be some 300 million years old, were the result of tectonic plates colliding beneath the earth. As such, the rock that makes up this continental mountain range was exposed to extreme temperatures and tremendous pressure. As a result, conditions were ideal for the formation of asbestiform minerals in northern areas of the state, near the South and North Carolina borders. Deposits of asbestos continue into the southeast and can be found throughout the metro region of Atlanta and all the way down to the areas surround Westpoint Lake. Asbestos deposits can also be found in an outlying region approximately 50 miles to the northeast of Macon near Milledgeville. All these deposits means that other materials mined for might have been contaminated with asbestos, putting those who developed and processed the minerals in danger.
Georgia industry also played a major role in the contribution of potential asbestos exposure, as the material spread through construction and other industry operations throughout the state. Some of the corporations in operation not only used asbestos in the process of construction, but in their daily operations. Asbestos was used in the operation of paper and pulp mills, for example. The drying felts used in these facilities not only contained asbestos, but were usually held in place by adhesives containing the product. Due to practices such as these, the effects of asbestos on the surrounding areas have been far reaching, both in construction and other industries.
In the two decades prior to the 2000 census, 538 people died as a result of asbestos exposure, with mesothelioma accounting for 319 of those deaths. Although no Georgia county has been spared, the majority of the fatalities have occurred in the counties of Chatham, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Richmond. Urban areas were hit the hardest, with only one death in each of the rural counties of Fayette, Murray, and Worth, indicating asbestos exposure is most dangerous when found in the concentrated quantities of consumer goods and construction.