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Public housing residents may be at risk for asbestos exposure

People living in public housing face many challenges, from the negative view many people have of those who live in public housing, to the risks of crime and other dangers that may be present in public housing throughout California. Asbestos and mesothelioma might not seem as concern worthy of much attention for residents, but a story from KQED in San Francisco, points out that maybe it should be.

The San Francisco Housing Authority houses 31,000 residents in numerous locations around the city. Unsurprisingly, there are problems with the properties. Public housing has long been problematic in the United States. Much housing was built during the 1950s and 1960s, as part of the "Urban Renewal" movement that witnessed the clearing of many "slums" and the construction of concentrated public housing developments. 

That period was also perhaps the peak time for the use of asbestos-containing products in building and construction materials. This means that thousands of these properties contain asbestos flooring, ceiling materials, insulation and plumbing materials.

Public housing authorities are often short of funding and other resources and the properties they supervise often suffer from poor maintenance. The risk is that asbestos materials may be exposed to wear and tear, allowing dangerous asbestos fibers to become airborne and inhaled by residents.

One woman in the story relates how she found her attic, which she wanted to use for storage, had a door marked with a name of an asbestos manufacturer. There were what appeared to be piles of insulation falling from the roof, and she requested an inspection in 2008. She was still waiting for someone from the authority to inspect it after the story had aired this spring.

For residents, this type of situation could lead to asbestos exposure and 20 to 30 years from now, development of a deadly cancer like mesothelioma. 

Source: KQED, "Bedbugs and Asbestos: A San Francisco Public Housing Resident's Odyssey," Joshua Johnson, June 4, 2013