The groundbreaking discovery of the devastating effects of asbestos fibers led to banning of its mining in the United States and numerous other countries. The large deposits of asbestos in our nation’s environment, however, continue to raise public concern. California, in particular, contains some of the largest naturally occurring asbestos deposits in the world. In an effort to further our understanding of the risks associated with natural asbestos, the EPA, along with state and local authorities, conducted a comprehensive investigation in the El Dorado Hills area. The assessment took place between 2004 and 2005, and was intended to measure the exposure to asbestos fibers that resulted from recreational activities.
The type of fibers found in El Dorado Hills are amphibole, which scientists believe to be more toxic than the other, more common form, serpentine. To read more about the differences between amphibole and serpentine asbestos rocks, click here.
Lung cancer lawyers remind residents of El Dorado hills that no level of asbestos exposure is safe, and may lead to development of several illnesses, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and gastrointestinal cancer. The EPA conducted their assessment at Jackson and Silva Valley Elementary Schools, Rolling Hills Middle School, the Community Park, and the New York Creek Nature Trail. They simulated baseball, basketball and soccer games at the sites, along with simulated biking, running, playing and gardening. During this time they wore personal air samplers to collect dust from the breathing height of children and adults. Stationary samplers were also set up to collect asbestos samples outside the direct area of activity.
EPA found that asbestos fibers were present in almost all El Dorado Hills
air samples, whether from sports and play activities or from samples collected nearby.
Results show that engaging in a variety of sports and play activities in the areas tested can expose individuals participating in those activities to significantly elevated levels of amphibole asbestos. In some cases, especially at the Community Park baseball fields, elevations in short-fiber chrysotile exposures were also observed.
They observed that play within the children’s playground at the Community Park can generate elevated exposure levels for the children playing there. U.S. EPA also found that even when there is no activity at the toddler playground, asbestos levels there are higher because of activities elsewhere in the Community Park. In most cases, these exposure levels are of concern because of the potential for long-term development of asbestos-related diseases.
Concern is further heightened because this preliminary conclusion may not fully account for the higher toxicity of amphibole asbestos, as well as other uncertainties related to short-term, intermittent exposures early in life. Therefore, the actual risk potential may be higher – although current Agency risk assessments cannot specify exactly how much higher.
However, U.S. EPA does know that the risk of contracting an asbestos related disease increases with exposure, and that higher exposure and greater frequency and duration of exposure increases the risk. Because of their longer life expectancy, children have more time to develop asbestos related diseases that typically have a decades-long latency period and are therefore at higher risk than adults.
The Agency is recommending that all parties–federal/state/ local
government, the community and the private sector– work together
to find ways to reduce these elevated exposures. The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency will maintain local information repositories, with copies
of documents related to our work on naturally occurring asbestos, at two
branches of the El Dorado County Library:
El Dorado County Library Oak Ridge High School Branch: 1120 Harvard Way, El Dorado Hills
El Dorado County Library Main Branch: 345 Fair Lane, Placerville
Public Participation: David Cooper Community Involvement Coordinator
U.S. EPA Region 9 75 Hawthorne Street (SFD-3)
San Francisco, CA 94105
Office: (415) 972-3240
NOA Assessment: Jere Johnson
Site Assessment Manager
U.S. EPA Region 9 75 Hawthorne Street (SFD-9-1)
San Francisco, CA 94105
Office: (415) 972-3094
U.S. EPA toll-free Community Involvement message line: (800) 231-3075
Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge residents of the El Dorado Hills area to keep up to date with these reports, and to receive consistent medical checkups. If you developed an asbestos exposure related illness, contact one of our skilled asbestos attorneys immediately for a free consultation.