Asbestos Contaminated Roads in California

The community of Garden Valley California is at risk for inhaling asbestos fiber from roadway traffic. The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) conducted surface soil and air studies in the area in response to public concerns about the presence of asbestos. The roads in question were surfaced with serpentine gravel; serpentine is abundant in California and was used in construction of many driveways, walkways and roads. Serpentine rocks contain large deposits of asbestos, which are most dangerous when they become airborne, as is common in daily use of gravel roads. Garden Valley is located near the Sierra Nevada Mountains in El Dorado County, in between two natural north-south serpentine deposits.

Asbestos exposure attorneys remind citizens of Golden Valley that the period of time between initial exposure to asbestos and development of related diseases is very long, between 20 and 50 years. This extended latency period contributes to the high fatality rate of the illnesses linked to exposure, which include mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung and gastrointestinal cancers.

The DTSC study focused on Slondusty Road and researchers collected samples from approximately 4.9 feet above ground at distances from 5 to 190 feet from the road. The first test included 30 cars driving at 25 miles per hour, and the second featured 10 cars traveling at 10 miles per hour. Each scenario was repeated, so that two test runs were conducted for each scenario.

The airborne asbestos concentration data obtained from the study indicated that air concentrations were prevalent in all areas sampled, even at 190 feet from the road regardless of wind direction. These data suggest that road workers and drivers using this road prior to resurfacing could have been exposed to appreciable airborne asbestos concentrations. The study concluded that there was an average of approximately two percent asbestos in the surfacing materials and soils.

After the initial emission study, the road was resurfaced with a chipseal and limestone aggregate cover. The emission study was then repeated. Asbestos emissions were reduced by an average of 98% after resurfacing the road.

Slodusty Road is a private road in the Garden Valley area maintained by individual homeowners. Prior to and during the initial emissions study, the road was surfaced with serpentine gravel. According to the residents, the gravel was obtained from local quarries about seven years prior to this study. At the time of the study the surface gravel had been well traveled, much of it reduced in size by the traffic.

Asbestos fibers are environmentally persistent and as such, may still be present and a potential concern. Other sources and exposure routes should be investigated. Potential other sources include, but are not limited to dust inside residences, dust in vehicles driven or stored in the area, and soil adjacent to the roadway. Past studies have indicated that due to the persistent and physical characteristics of asbestos fibers they have the potential to accumulate over time within residences and vehicles.

Other activities, particularly if they occur on or near roads, driveways or walkways that are surfaced with materials that contain asbestos, may result in release of asbestos to air. Rototilling, lawn mowing, clearing vegetation, digging and recreational activities in areas that contain asbestos or are secondarily impacted by asbestos emissions may result in release of asbestos fibers and potential increased exposure over ambient conditions. When engaging in these activities, residents and workers should take precautions to minimize emissions.

For the Initial Study, calculated risks range from 4 potential excess cancers in a population of one million people to 3 potential additional cancers in a population of 100 people. For the 30 vehicles/25mph traffic pattern, the airborne asbestos concentrations and associated estimated risk was approximately 10 times higher. The risk estimates show that the potential risk decreases with increasing distance from the roadside. Also, that estimated risk is greater downwind of the road as compared with the upwind direction.

Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm remind Golden Valley residents that not seeing dust does not mean that asbestos is not present in the air. Asbestos is odorless, tasteless, and does not dissolve in water. Keep up to date with the EPA and DTSC findings in your community. If you suspect development of an asbestos-related illness, contact our office immediately for a free legal consultation.