A new report says very low levels of asbestos found at Illinois Beach State Park do not pose a risk to those who use the park.
But a Congressional subcommittee is investigating claims that the federal agency that did the study has, in the past, committed scientific fraud.
At Illinois Beach State Park, near Zion, investigators for the EPA donned protective suits in September 2007 to play volleyball. But it was no ordinary day at the beach for the 20 members of the National Emergency Response Team. They were testing for asbestos fibers in the sand and air at the 6-acre park, which borders Lake Michigan near Zion.
A new health analysis by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) --- an arm of the Centers for Disease Control --- says "….recreational use of the beach is not expected to harm people's health."
“Asbestos fibers were detected in only 13 of 154 activity-based samples, at levels that are within or below the EPA target cancer risk range,” according to an ATSDR press release.
The results were a year and a half in coming, even after findings were supposed to be released prior to last summer's beach season.
In the summer of 2007, NBC's Unit 5 easily found examples of asbestos containing material washing onto the beach and the study admits that remains a problem.
“For the last 10 years, their mantra is, 'Well, yes, there're pieces there,'” said asbestos expert Jeff Camplin. "And in 99.9 percent of any other situation. children would not be allowed in an area where asbestos is continually found, let alone a 7-and-a-half-mile beach.”
For more than a decade Camplin and the Illinois Dunesland Preservation Society have challenged both state and federal studies that the park is safe. Thursday in Washington, Camplin will testify before a Congressional subcommittee investigating allegations of scientific fraud by ATSDR.
The Committee is looking primarily at trailers provided to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that contained formaldehyde. ATSDR is accused of issuing reports downplaying the health consequences. But whether or not past studies at Illinois Beach State Park were properly done will also be addressed.
“There's some consistent patterns of unethical behavior and scientific fraud, and I am hopefully one of many people who are going to be able to expose this,” said Camplin.
Asked to comment on Thursday’s hearing, ATSDR has not replied.