More asbestos danger for California town

12 May 2008 by under Events, News

Last week I posted news that the federal Bureau of Land Management, under the direction of the Environmental Protection Agency, closed a 48-acre recreational area in California known as due to concerns about high levels of asbestos in the area. The land is a popular area for off-road hiking, biking and ATV adventures, with about 35,000 visitors a year. But now it seems that asbestos is a growing concern throughout a wide swath of California, where naturally occuring asbestos is prevalent. The Los Angeles Times reported May 2 about a community in El Dorado Hills, Calif., that is being investigated by the EPA for high asbestos levels.

Inspectors donned air filters and protective gear while running, biking and playing baseball and other sports in areas of the town to monitor asbestos levels. The paper reported that initial EPA assessments were worst along a creek-side trail in El Dorado Hills Community Park, where asbestos levels were 22-43 times higher than ambient air levels when stirred up by the common recreational activities tested.

It shouldn’t come as a complete surprise to the town. Already, the newspaper reported, asbestos concerns were responsible for a $2.5-million cleanup at Oak Ridge High School, including replacing the running track with a new all-weather surface.

Still, there is active ground clearing and new home construction throughout the town, with an affluent population and fine homes priced in the $700,000 range.

While some residents expressed concern, I was struck by the comments of residents who seemed to want to ignore the threat, or who refused to believe there would be a problem as a result of the asbestos. The Times quoted residents who “shrugged off” the news, saying “the whole thing seems like overkill.” Others objected to “the government” “overreacting,” saying “there’s risk in life whatever you do.”

One resident, who is worried about the effects on her children, recalling how her daughter brushed up clouds of asbestos-laden dust after a cheerleading routine, said, “Most people around here seem more worred about home values than health.”

The same types of risk dismissals are found in the Clear Creek story, where outdoor enthusiasts are vowing to fight the recreational area’s closing, telling the government to stop meddling and let them take the risk.

I just don’t understand this attitude. Asbestos is proven to be a danger, causing asbestosis, mesothelioma and other lung and stomach cancers. If people were told they were building their homes on radioactive land, or bike riding through Chernobyl, they would be concerned. Why is this deadly threat so much less apparent to them? Most seem to have the attitude that they will “worry about it later.”

What about the children? With the often long latency period for asbestos damage, youngsters exposed to asbestos now are at risk of developing problems in the prime of life. Are parents really willing to risk the lives of their children in order to not be “inconvenienced” or to “make their own decisions” independent of government recommendations?

If the EPA were to turn away from this danger, to issue a warning but not aggressively pursue closures and clean-up, what would the public say years from now, when people are affected with asbestosis and mesothelioma? “Where was our warning?” “Where was the government, to tell us there was danger?”

You can’t have it both ways.

3 Responses to “More asbestos danger for California town”

  1. Mesothelioma Cancer Adviser

    Studies of asbestos exposure have led to some disturbing mesothelioma stats, including conclusive evidence that there are many people whose occupations still put them at great risk of exposure. These include steelworkers, plumbers, electricians, demolition workers, construction and renovation contractors and those involved in the manufacturing of insulation and roofing materials.

    Please read more on this topic here: http://www.mesothelioma-adviser.com/mesotheliom

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