Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that has historically been in many types of manufacturing and building. However, it is linked to a cancer called mesothelioma and asbestosis, a lung disease, and has been showing up in the American death rates significantly over the past few decades.
California is among the states with higher mesothelioma death rates, with Yuba and Siskiyou showing up in the top 50 counties in the country. In 2015, there were 247 deaths due to mesothelioma in our state. This is largely because of the high rates of naturally occurring asbestos and asbestos-related work environments.
Naturally occurring asbestos
According to the United States Geological Survey, asbestos is in 45 of the 58 California counties. They have located 240 deposits across the state. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identifies two significant areas in which the fibers show up: the El Dorado Hills and Clear Creek Management Area.
Naturally occurring asbestos in the soil does not pose a threat to those close because it is not airborne. However, when there is movement of asbestos, it can be harmful. The El Dorado Hills are near Oak Ridge High School, which has been the site of significant asbestos discovery. The Clear Creek Management Area is on one of the world’s largest naturally occurring deposits. It is also home to the Atlas Asbestos Mine Superfund site, meaning that it became a hazardous waste dump, but is now supposedly undergone cleaning.
Asbestos found in work environments
While there have been new restrictions in recent years concerning asbestos in the workplace, some of the material remains and the effect of decades’ use continues to show up in employees. Asbestos often shows up in:
- Many of California’s major shipyards
- Oil refineries and offshore platforms
- Power plants
- Asbestos mines across the state, including ones meant for coal, talc, gold and copper
Though these are only a few of California’s asbestos sites and there is some cleanup, it can also occur through contact with certain asbestos-related products and through older homes. It is important to note where exposure may take place, especially since health conditions from contact with asbestos can take years to show up.