EPA Report Released on Asbestos in El Dorado Hills, CA

Naturally Occurring Asbestos is a Danger During Everyday Activities

EL DORADO HILLS, CA - June 17, 2005 - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a long-awaited study about naturally occurring asbestos in the community of El Dorado Hills last month. The report's conclusion was disturbing-playing baseball or other sports on El Dorado high school grounds or at local parks may expose people to high levels of asbestos. The children's playground and the toddler's sandbox also contained asbestos, which is found in the soil and can become airborne. Even jogging or bicycling in the park produced asbestos dust.

The EPA measured asbestos levels by "activity-based personal air monitoring." Dressed in protective gear, EPA workers played baseball, basketball, and soccer at local schools and parks. They biked and hiked at Community Park, gardened at an elementary school, and ran in the children's playground. They wore personal air samplers to collect dust at the breathing height of children and adults. Stationary air samplers were also set up.

The researchers analyzed 180 soil samples and over 400 air samples. Almost every sample contained asbestos. Actinolite and tremolite asbestos were the main fibers found. Chrysotile asbestos fibers were present at baseball fields and the children's playground. All three types of asbestos fibers are dangerous. Inhaling any kind of asbestos can later cause asbestosis (lung scarring), lung cancer, or mesothelioma (an aggressive cancer that usually attacks the membranes lining the lungs and chest).

Where Does Natural Asbestos Occur?

Asbestos-containing rock may be found in the fault zones in the low Sierras, in some California coastal communities, and in the foothills of Virginia. This rock or soil is classified as either "ultramafic," or "serpentine." Excavating, building homes or constructing roads in areas with large deposits of natural asbestos, like in El Dorado Hills, can release large amounts of asbestos into the air. The El Dorado report shows that sports activities or even heavy foot traffic can also release asbestos dust and fibers from asbestos-containing soil.

The EPA report notes that the risk of contracting an asbestos disease increases based on several factors: higher levels of asbestos fibers in the air, higher frequency of asbestos exposure, longer duration of exposure, and the time that elapses after asbestos exposure. The exposure of El Dorado children to asbestos is particularly troubling, the report says, because asbestos diseases generally take decades to develop. Since children have a longer life expectancy than adults, a child exposed to asbestos may have a greater risk of developing an asbestos disease than does an adult.

Efforts to Address the Asbestos Exposure Issue in El Dorado County

"The EPA believes that action is needed to reduce asbestos exposures," the report concluded. "The entire [El Dorado] community-regulators, schools, community service providers, the private sector, and the public - needs to get involved in solving this problem."

El Dorado County officials meanwhile announced plans to try to reduce asbestos hazards (Sacramento Bee, May 26, 2005). The county will take about 12 employees from various departments and form a Dust Prevention and Enforcement Team. Its task will be to check on construction activity, rather than wait for complaints.

El Dorado consumers may still phone in complaints about construction dust on a new Air Quality Management District hotline (888) 394-4662 (FYI-4NOA). The District is responsible for enforcing laws that regulate construction, quarrying, and surfacing activities in areas where there is naturally occurring asbestos (see the Air Quality Management District section of the El Dorado County web site for details).

On the state level, Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) has introduced S.B. 655. This bill requires the California Environmental Protection Agency to create a task force to review policies and adopt guidelines to reduce risks from naturally occurring asbestos. The idea behind the bill is to coordinate the rules and efforts of various agencies. It names the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the Air Resources Board, and the Department of Health Services as members of the task force. The state Senate has passed S.B. 655, which is now being considered in the Assembly.

Asbestos Exposure and Your Legal Rights

With our main office located in California, the asbestos attorneys at Brayton Purcell have been extensively involved in protecting the legal rights of asbestos victims, including injured workers and their families for over 24 years. Many of our clients suffer from asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, or other asbestos-related diseases. We will provide a free evaluation of your potential case if you have been exposed to asbestos and think you may have developed an asbestos-related disease.

If you would like to request more information about how our asbestos attorneys can help you, you may contact us or call 800-720-4981.