Erionite and Cancer in Cappadocia, Turkey
Friday, November 5, 2010 4:55:14 PM
Erionite is a similar microscopic, fibrous mineral, belonging to a group of minerals known as zeolites. Erionite fibres, just like asbestos, when inhaled can become lodged in the linings of the lungs, heart, and abdomen and cause cancer. Erionite is usually found in volcanic ash that has been altered by weathering and ground water.
Cappadocia in Turkey is famous for rock formations known as "fairy chimneys", such as the one in my picture. They have been formed as the result of the erosion of tuff layers. Tuff is consolidated volcanic ash. The tuff has been sculpted by wind and flood water, running down on the slopes of the valleys. Water has found its way through the valleys creating cracks and ruptures in the hard rock. The softer, easily erodable material underneath has been gradually swept away receding the slopes and in this way, conical formations protected with harder caps (ignimbrites, lahars …) have been created.
Tourists from all over the world come to Cappadocia to see caves and rock houses carved into these, easily workable, tuff formations. Some of the tuff however contains dangerous amounts of erionite. In three particular Cappadocia villages about 48 percent of all deaths are from cancer probably caused by erionite. The inhabitants are believed to have inhaled fibers of erionite in stones and paints they used to build homes as well as in roads and fields. One of the villages, Tuzkoy, has been dubbed "cancer village" in the media, and from here about 250 families have now moved to new housing 1.6 km away. The rest of the population of 2,350 is expected to move when additional homes are ready. The move is subsidized by the state. The final plan is to demolish the old village, bury it in 1 1/2 m of earth and plant over it.
If you wonder how safe tourists are, then Tuzkoy is 35 km from the nearest sites where tourists marvel at the natural stone formations, and 50 km from Ürgüp, Göreme and other towns where the local tourist industry is concentrated. There is no indication of similar health threats at these popular sites, which were formed by volcanic deposits millions of years ago and later sculpted into underground cities and other dwellings by early civilizations.
Turkey is a fairly rich country in terms of volcanic activity. One of the most important parts of this richness is undoubtly Mount Erciyes. Mount Erciyes which is located approximately 20 km away from Kayseri, a town about 55 km from Göreme, is a passive 3916 m high volcano. The formation of Erciyes occurred in three phases. These phases began approximately 20 million years ago. The volcanic activities at Mount Erciyes continued until nearly 2000 years ago.