This story is not from California, but like most stories concerning asbestos and buildings, it could be. The town of Seguin is a little town in Texas, near San Antonio. The city houses the Guadalupe County Agriculture Building. Last week, a county judge ordered the building closed, over concerns of asbestos and mold within the building. The County Attorney had noted that the county could be liable for injuries caused by exposure to asbestos or mold.
What is interesting about the story is that it is such an exemplar of how this scenario plays out virtually every week, somewhere in the United States. An older building, often a school or other public building, is either being renovated and someone discovers there is asbestos. Sometimes the building is known to contain asbestos and some part of the structure, like the floor or ceiling tile, begins to deteriorate and a red flag is raised regarding the potential for asbestos exposure.
Like many infrastructure issues in this country, it is always easier to put off today what will be more expensive in the future. As with the crumbling highways and falling-down bridges, it is a problem that does not go away.
One of the county commissioners at a meeting suggested they allocate $1.5 million for building renovations, as mold has been discovered and a worker put his foot through part of the roof, and then asbestos was raised as a topic.
A commissioner noted during the emergency meeting that asbestos is not a problem as long as it is not disturbed. That is true, but absent proper monitoring, how could you know it has not been disturbed?
One man commented that he had been there since 1999 and he was "still breathing." The statement may have raised a chuckle, but the funny thing about asbestos is that if he had inhaled asbestos fibers into his lungs in 1999, he might not develop asbestosis or mesothelioma for another ten or twenty years. On the other hand, he could develop a cough that does not go away next week.
Source: Seguin Gazette, "Asbestos, mold threat keeps ag building closed," Bob Thaxton, September 17, 2013