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Southern Nevada District Office
Release Date: 01/27/11
Contacts: Kirsten Cannon , 702-515-5057 ,

Dust Study of Nellis Dunes Notes Elevated Levels of Arsenic

Las Vegas - Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Las Vegas Field Office received a study that characterized dust emissions in the Nellis Dunes Recreation Area as part of a regulatory dust mitigation plan conducted by University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Sampling data from the dust study identified a mineral that is similar to asbestos and elevated levels of arsenic.

BLM does not know whether the elevated levels of arsenic pose a health risk to recreational and other users of the Nellis Dunes Recreation Area (NDRA). As a result, BLM has requested researchers to conduct a Human Health Risk Assessment (Health Risk Assessment) of the area. The study will take approximately three years to complete -- preliminary data will be available and released to the public sooner -- and will provide BLM with information concerning whether these materials present a human health risk to recreational and other users using NDRA. If the materials identified in the dust study are found to pose a potential threat to human health and safety, the Health Risk Assessment will help BLM determine what, if any, safety measures should be taken at NDRA.

“Public health and safety is our top priority,” said Bob Ross, Field Manager for the Las Vegas Field Office. “At the same time, we want to know if the results of the dust study show a risk to recreationists and others using the Nellis Dunes area.”

While awaiting the Health Risk Assessment results, signs will be posted at NDRA and information will be posted on the BLM’s website. The dust study and Health Risk Assessment results will be incorporated into the revision of the BLM’s Las Vegas Field Office Resource Management Plan which is expected to be available for public comment in summer 2011 and the Las Vegas Field Office Recreation Area Management Plan in which public scoping is anticipated in late January. 

Key results of the dust study include the following findings:
  • Nearly all dust samples taken in the area contain palygorskite–a mineral with many of the same characteristics as asbestos. Minerals with these characteristics are called “asbestiform.” Palygorskite, like asbestos, is naturally occurring; however, unlike asbestos, it is not regulated.
  • The concentrations of naturally occurring arsenic in soil samples at NDRA are substantially higher (3.49 to 83.02 ppm) than soils elsewhere in the United States (3.6 to 8.8 ppm.) Currently there are no standards in the United States for arsenic in recreational settings. 

Additional information, including the study itself, is posted online at

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Last updated: 01-27-2011