Asbestos Exposure in California
Several locations in California have been designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as Superfund sites. Many of these sites have been given the designation because of asbestos-related problems and are given special cleanup attention from the EPA. The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard received EPA intervention because of its widespread use of asbestos which put several Navy veterans at risk for disease due to asbestos exposure. Also in California, the W.R. Grace site caused an environmental risk to the area and nearby residents because of asbestos contamination.
Mining and Asbestos Exposure
California has a large amount of naturally occurring asbestos, which made asbestos mining a major industry in the state. Workers in asbestos mines were at an extremely high risk of asbestos exposure. Asbestos has also been found in other California mines, such as coal, talc, and gold. Disturbing asbestos fibers during the mining process causes the toxic fibers to become airborne. When the fibers are inhaled by workers or other individuals, deadly asbestos-related diseases can develop.
The King City Asbestos Company (KCAC) mine in California was the last operating asbestos mine in the U.S. when it closed in 2002. The mine was founded in 1957 and was purchased in 1985 by King City Asbestos Company. KCAC continued mining large asbestos deposits for nearly two decades when it finally closed. Workers in this mine were exposed to hazardous asbestos fibers and could develop deadly asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
Asbestos in Shipyards
California has several industries and businesses known for asbestos use including shipyards, paper mills, oil refineries and military bases. The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco was used solely by the Navy for shipbuilding, repair and maintenance back in the 1940s. Asbestos was used regularly at the shipyard as was common with most shipyards at the time. In the late 1980s, tests at the site confirmed the presence of several hazardous substances, including asbestos. The shipyard was later shut down in 1991 and reopened in 1995 after an extensive cleanup and removal of asbestos-contaminated materials.
Oil Refineries and Asbestos
California is home to several oil refineries and offshore oil platforms. Also, because of the size of the state, there are a large number of power plants. Both the oil industry and energy industry used asbestos-containing materials to insulate from heat, electricity, and fire. Individuals working in these industries may have been exposed to asbestos.
The Moore Dry Dock Company has been the subject of several lawsuits related to asbestos exposure and the W.R. Grace Company filed for bankruptcy in 2001 because of asbestos-related suits. W.R. Grace operated from 1950 to 1977 processing vermiculite from Libby, Montana. The vermiculite was tainted with asbestos and according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) the site received more than 120,000 tons of contaminated vermiculite. This put residents near the site and employees at risk for asbestos exposure.