Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that can be found all over the globe. Although it is now widely known as a toxic carcinogen, it is still mined in some parts of the world and used in products to be sold cheaply to countries with little to no restrictions on its presence. Even in the United States asbestos mines remained active until the early 2000s, and while some regulations exist, individuals across the country are still being exposed to this dangerous mineral. Many groups are working tirelessly to push Congress for a full ban, but asbestos is still allowed to be used in certain products.
Naturally-Occurring Asbestos in California
According to a 2011 U.S. geological survey, there are at least 290 known natural occurrences of asbestos in the state of California. It is no surprise that the state also has the highest number of asbestos-related deaths in the country. When asbestos fibers become airborne, anyone nearby risks inhaling or swallowing those fibers, which causes deadly diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other cancers. Everyone is exposed to some amount of asbestos during their lifetime, but increased durations and amounts of exposure will likely lead to illness.
Off-Roading Vehicles Disturb Naturally-Occurring Asbestos
Recent studies have found that natural asbestos occurrences are being disturbed by off-roading vehicles – causing fibers to become airborne and putting riders at risk. Several of the popular off-roading trails in California pass through or near asbestos-ridden areas. As vehicles travel over this terrain, it kicks up what appears to be an innocent trail of dust, but could now be filled with asbestos fibers. Riders should be particularly careful in these California counties as asbestos occurrences are more abundant:
- Humboldt County
- San Benito County
- Monterey County
- El Dorado County
Off-Roaders Should Take Precautions
It is essential for off-roaders to take their safety and health into consideration by avoiding areas with asbestos. This may be challenging as multiple studies concluded that of the hundreds of known asbestos occurrences, “approximately 80% were located within 20 miles of an [off-roading] trail, and nearly a third were located within one mile.” Moving forward, anyone planning off-roading activities should acquire as much knowledge as possible regarding asbestos occurrences on trails they will be traveling.