Medical Geology Class Website

Welcome to the class webpage for GEOL 295B, Medical Geology - Spring 2010!   I'll be posting powerpoint presentations, reading assignments, and other information here during the course of the semester.

The syllabus is available HERE

Week 1 - Introduction to Medical Geology and the history of asbestos use

Powerpoint presentation

Week 2 - Geology of Asbestos Deposits:  We will be reading two papers for week 2, one for each of the 2 mine sites we will be considering, the Vermont Asbestos Group Mine near Eden, VT and the Libby Vermiculite Mine in Montana:

Ballen et al., 2009 - Summary of the VAG mine

Bandli and Gunter, 2006 - Summary of the Libby mine

Week 3 - Mineralogy of Asbestos:

Levitan et al., 2009, Mineralogy of minerals at the VAG mine

Gunter et al., 2007, RIMG volme 67 - pages 453 - 472

Also see this webpage at the SERC (Science Education Resource Center) that describes many of these techniques in more detail:

Week 4 - Health Effects of Asbestos Exposure:

Fubini and Fenoglio, 2007, Toxic Potential of Mineral Dusts

Mossman et al., 1990, Asbestos pathogenicity

Week 5 - Quantifying Risk of asbestos exposure

VT Dept. of Health VAG Mine study (Original)

Wilson et al., 2005 - Risk assessment of asbestos exposure from WTC dust

Vital Statistics Website

Week 6 - Regulatory responses to asbestos hazards

On the EPA website on Laws and Regulatins we are going to look at several things to start thinking about how regulatory agencies have responded to asbestos as a health problem (
We will also look at a few items related to the State and Federal Response to issues at the VAG mine on the VT ANR website at

Week 7 - Legal proceeding in asbestos cases - Grace v. U.S. as an example

The criminal trial Grace v. U.S. Government, concerning  was chronicled by a University of Montana group, a joint Law School – Journalism School exercise.  We will use this to become familiar with some of the basics of legal cases and especially how scientific evidence (both geological and medical) is presented and evaluated.  The web site is at, there is a lot there, the following is a guide of pages and topical ideas for you to focus on though I encourage you to look into it in more depth to gain insight on how an environmental legal case works.

First, under the section on “How a criminal trial proceeds” investigate the differences between civil and criminal cases, and the major details and definitions used in the courtroom (including hearsay and rules of evidence, jury selection/function, rules of the courtroom, standard of proof, and the witnesses). 

Next investigate the pretrial legal issues surrounding the Grace case, specifically how the case was framed with respect to the clean air act and contested evidence – scientific contenstation and also Daubert motions regarding selected expert witnesses.  Additionally look at the expert witness section and the arguments those witnesses address.

Now investigate the government and defense legal issues stressed at the trial  - focusing on the major themes both sides will ‘use’ in the trial


Next is a listing of reports on how the trial proceeded day by day – feel free to look into all of it, but focus on the following days and especially focused on trial introduction of scientific evidence:

At the end of every week’s blogging, a weekly review (e.g. Week 3: Four Witnesses finish testifying) is included – this is a good way to see an overview of progress – these can be found in March 5, 12, 20, 29, April 10, 18, May 1

Additionally, parts of specific days have more details on some of the scientific evidence, review:

March 16, 2009 – air sampling cross and winchite vs. tremolite

March 17, 2009 – the hamster study

March 19, 2009 – tremolite counting and ‘binding’ efforts

April 15 – toxicity studies

April 20 – dose responses

April 30 – EPA overestimating risk?

May 6 – closing arguments and jury instruction

Week 9 - Arsenic Introduction

Vaughan, 2006 - Introduction to Arsenic

O'Day, 2006 - Arsenic Mineralogy

Week 10 - Arsenic Mobility

Charlet and Polya, 2006 - Arsenic mobility in SE Asia

Price and Pichler, 2006 - Arsenic released in Florian groundwater storage aquifers

Week 11 - Arsenic Toxicity and Dose

Hopenhayn, 2006 - Overview of chronic arsenic exposure

Bodwell et al., 2006 - Low-dose effects of arsenic

Week 12 - Arsenic regulations - Drinking Water standards

Smith and Smith, 2004 - Assessemnt of different drinking water standards and synergistic cancer effects