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California Asbestos Exposure Sites

Asbestos Exposure Sites in California

Asbestos exposure sites are places or geographical areas where people are more likely to be exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is a generic commercial name given to six naturally occurring minerals made of flexible fibers and widely used for their unique ability to resist heat, corrosion, and electricity before the enactment of California mesothelioma and asbestos laws.

In California, residents can get exposed to asbestos in the environment, as the state has numerous natural asbestos deposits. Also, due to past heavy use of asbestos in California's construction, shipyard, and general industries, individuals who hold particular jobs, live in older homes/buildings, or live near regions where asbestos was mined or manufactured, may be at risk of exposure.

Prolonged exposure to asbestos remains the significant causal factor for contracting certain nonmalignant and malignant illnesses, including asbestosis, pleural disease, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

How Does Asbestos Exposure Happen in California?

Asbestos exposure occurs when asbestos fibers become airborne and are inhaled or ingested. Ordinarily, asbestos (whether naturally occurring or manufactured) is not hazardous when it is intact or sealed in solid materials. The hazard arises when asbestos is disturbed or when asbestos-containing materials deteriorate, are damaged, or are removed unsafely. If this happens, the substance easily separates into thin, durable mineral fibers that are not just microscopic, odorless, and tasteless but can stand suspended in the air for long periods before settling. Unsurprisingly, asbestos is considered a toxic air contaminant (TAC) by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and ahuman carcinogen by international, federal, and state agencies.

Between breathing in and swallowing asbestos fibers, California residents are more likely to be exposed by inhalation. According to the California Office of Environment Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the contamination of the air with asbestos fibers is the main pathway through which asbestos can enter the human body. Inhaled fibers can become lodged in the exposed person's lungs, triggering the development of cancerous conditions or other serious health concerns.

On the other hand, individuals can suffer exposure when they ingest asbestos fibers - say, from drinking water. However, while people can unknowingly swallow asbestos fibers, there is no conclusive evidence suggesting that ingested fibers are hazardous to the human body or can increase a person's risk of asbestos-related diseases.

Notably, exposure to asbestos fibers can also occur through skin absorption or contact (also known as dermal exposure). However, compared to the other modes of exposure, dermal exposure is less common in today's society. Dermal exposure was more prevalent in the past (typically among asbestos workers) when asbestos had many industrial and commercial uses.

Where Does Asbestos Exposure Occur in California?

Asbestos exposure can occur at various locations in California, principally environmental areas and work sites. California ranks as having one of the largest naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) deposits in the United States. Furthermore, the state was once well-known as a leading producer of asbestos, possibly surpassing 1,650,000 short tons in total asbestos production from 1887 to 2002.

For this reason, several regions in California have been designated as Superfund Sites by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), areas polluted with hazardous substances (e.g., asbestos) and marked for management and cleanup by property owners or the government. A number of these sites contain naturally occurring asbestos, asbestos waste, or are former asbestos mines, factories, or military sites. Below are examples:

  • Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA), San Benito and Fresno Counties
  • Atlas Asbestos Mine, Coalinga (located within the Clear Creek Management Area)
  • El Dorado Hills, El Dorado County
  • Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, San Francisco
  • South Bay Asbestos Area, Alviso
  • Coalinga Asbestos Mine, Coalinga
  • Naval Air Station Moffett Field, Moffett Field

The above list contains both past and present superfund sites in California. As a consequence of collaborative efforts between the EPA and other relevant state agencies, like the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), some sites (e.g., the Atlas Asbestos Mine) have been remediated successfully while cleanup measures and activities are still underway for others. Hence, not all present a risk of exposure to nearby residents.

Currently, asbestos is no longer mined or used to manufacture most products in California, and the state strictly regulates present applications. However, owing to the historical use of asbestos in California, the following are general locations where exposure may take place:

  • Buildings constructed before 1980, including school buildings, commercial buildings, industrial facilities, and homes
  • Military bases
  • Ships and naval vessels built before 1980
  • Job sites, including chemical plants, power plants, oil refineries, brewing companies, and metal works industries.
  • Older automobiles that contain parts made with asbestos materials.
  • Regions and mountainous areas with naturally occurring asbestos

Other sources of asbestos exposure include household products containing asbestos materials and natural or manmade disasters that expel asbestos fibers into the air, such as terror attacks, floods, earthquakes, and wildfires.

Who is at Risk of Asbestos Exposure in California?

Prior extensive use of asbestos and the presence of naturally occurring asbestos in California put many residents, workers, and visitors at risk of getting exposed to asbestos. However, while it is not uncommon for someone to have been exposed at least once in their lifetime and not know it, most asbestos-related diseases (the main concern with asbestos exposure) arise from frequent and long-term exposure to the toxic mineral. As such, persons susceptible to asbestos exposure are often those who work directly with the mineral or whose jobs predispose them to regular contact with asbestos. Such persons include:

  • First responders (firefighters, law enforcement officers, disaster rescue and cleanup crews, emergency response workers, active military personnel)
  • Demolition crews
  • Construction and renovation workers, including drywall removers, insulators, painters, roofers, pipefitters, electricians, welders, engineers, carpenters, boilermakers
  • Automobile workers
  • Shipyard workers
  • Industrial workers, e.g., power plant factory workers, metalworkers, oil refinery workers, chemical plant workers, machinists

California homeowners or tenants whose houses were built with asbestos-containing materials or whose residences are proximate to natural asbestos deposits or asbestos mines, mills, or manufacturing plants may be exposed to asbestos emissions while performing everyday activities. For example, digging dirt, vacuuming, riding horses, running or hiking, remodeling, and driving over unpaved roads. Also, persons who work or attend school in pre-1980 buildings may be at risk of exposure.

Notably, individuals (especially spouses and children) can get exposed to asbestos secondhand. This type of exposure is also called secondary, indirect, household, take-home, domestic, or para-occupational exposure. In these cases, contact happens when a family member or other household member who works with or around asbestos brings it home on their body, hair, clothes, shoes, or tools. Though secondhand exposure is not as common these days - as employers are obligated to provide decontamination facilities and supplies to workers - repeated occurrences can trigger the same serious health issues as direct or primary asbestos exposure.

How Much Asbestos Exposure Causes Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a cancerous tumor that targets the thin membrane covering internal organs like the lungs, abdomen, heart, and, in limited cases, testicles. Mesothelioma is almost invariably caused by asbestos exposure, and among the other asbestos diseases, it is relatively rare. Indeed, mesothelioma accounts for only 0.2% of all cancer cases in the United States and has an infection rate of 0.6 per 100,000 people in California.

However, the disease is highly aggressive, leading most victims to their deaths in a short while. (The average life expectancy for mesothelioma victims is around 12 months following a diagnosis, but people may live longer depending on the disease's type, stage, and location.) Mesothelioma incidences and deaths in California are considered one of the highest in the country. So far, 5,008 people have lost their lives to mesothelioma in the state.

It takes decades (at least 20 years) for mesothelioma to be diagnosed, and it is still unclear how much asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma. Most mesothelioma cases are linked to regular and long-term exposure to asbestos. However, one does not necessarily have to inhale or ingest asbestos fibers in large quantities to be at risk of the disease.

According to the National Cancer Institute and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the likelihood of developing mesothelioma from asbestos emissions rests on several factors:

  • The concentration of asbestos in the air at the time of exposure;
  • The duration and frequency of the exposure;
  • The exposure pathway (inhalation or ingestion);
  • Personal risk factors. For example, whether a person smokes or has a previous lung or breathing issue;
  • Individual characteristics, such as the age, gender, and overall health of the exposed person;
  • Genetic factors, i.e., if one has a genetic mutation that predisposes them to cancer;
  • The chemical composition, shape, and size of the asbestos fibers.

Asbestos Exposure Symptoms

The symptoms of asbestos exposure differ based on the type of disease a person develops and their exposure history. These symptoms often range from mild to severe and worsen over time, but they are not apparent at first (usually for many years). The following symptoms are common across exposed persons:

  • Weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • A dry, persistent cough or change in cough patterns
  • Hoarseness or wheezing
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Abdominal swelling or pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Swelling of the face or neck
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

Persons who suspect that they have been exposed to asbestos and show the above symptoms are advised to schedule a physical examination with a doctor. Early diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease may substantially improve a person's survival chances.

Asbestos Exposure From Products

Since the late 1800s and through most of the 1900s, asbestos was used to manufacture thousands of products in California. During this period, asbestos was essential to many industrial and commercial processes, so much so that the mineral was even incorporated into everyday products (household items and personal care products). By Cal/OSHA (California Division of Occupational Safety and Health) standards, materials or products that are "asbestos-containing" have greater than 1 percent of asbestos.

Today, asbestos no longer has extensive applications in California, but older asbestos-containing materials and products still pose a substantial risk of exposure to citizens. These include:

  • Automotive parts, including clutches, brake pads, hood liners, and gaskets
  • Asbestos textiles
  • Building materials, including popcorn/sprayed-on ceilings, vinyl floor tiles, roofing felt and shingles, asbestos cement, textured paint, hot water pipes, drywall and plaster, and more
  • Insulation products
  • Home appliances, including domestic heaters, refrigerators/freezers, clothes dryers, hairdryers, toasters, etc.
  • Cosmetic-grade talcum powder and other cosmetic products. (As recently as 2020, researchers found asbestos in makeup products sold by certain brands. In 2019, tests by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered asbestos in several cosmetic products.)
  • Children's toys (crayons, toy crime lab kits, modeling clay)

Notably, asbestos products do not present a serious risk of exposure unless they are damaged or capable of releasing asbestos fibers without damage, like in the case of older hairdryers (which could emit asbestos fibers while turned on) and some contaminated talc-based products.

Occupational Asbestos Exposure in California

Occupational asbestos exposure occurs when individuals encounter asbestos emissions at their workplaces or while carrying out job tasks. Historically, various occupations are associated with a moderate to high risk of asbestos exposure in California, especially those in the construction, shipyard, and general industries.

However, although many regulations and standards now exist to protect asbestos workers, asbestos exposure is still a concern at several job sites in present-day California - particularly in the same industries that previously utilized the mineral. At-risk professionals are often those involved in repairing, renovating, removing, or maintaining asbestos-containing products.

Most state and federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), designate occupational exposure as the primary source of asbestos exposure and the cause of most asbestos-related diseases nationwide.

Environmental Asbestos Exposure

Environmental asbestos exposure covers all incidences where individuals are exposed to asbestos fibers in their communities. Sources of environmental exposure include:

Naturally occurring asbestos: Because asbestos naturally forms in rocks and soils, this source of exposure is not uncommon - more so in California, where many counties have at least one natural asbestos deposit. When NOA is crushed, broken, or otherwise disturbed (for example, during construction or as part of a natural weathering process), fibrous asbestos particles can enter the air, soil, and water. Thus, creating a possibility of hazardous exposure for persons who live or work around the area or regularly visit it.

Asbestos mines and factories: The air, soil, and water around facilities where asbestos was previously commercially mined or processed may be contaminated. Persons who enter these regions without the necessary protective gear put themselves at risk of exposure and serious diseases. This threat of exposure also expands to individuals residing around the facilities.

Natural disasters: As previously noted, asbestos is generally deemed safe when it is intact. However, natural disasters such as wildfires, strong floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes can disturb or damage asbestos-containing rocks, soils, or products, leaving nearby residents at risk of contracting asbestos-related diseases.

Other ways asbestos fibers may contaminate the environment include improper disposal of asbestos waste and the unplanned demolition or destruction of buildings constructed with asbestos-containing materials.

Asbestos Exposure by California County

California is noteworthy for the heavy mining and manufacturing of asbestos in the 20th century and an abundance of naturally occurring asbestos. As such, compared to other U.S. states, California records high incidences of asbestos exposure, asbestos-related illnesses, and deaths each year. For example, mesothelioma, a rare cancer attributed to asbestos exposure, caused over 5,000 deaths in California from 1999 to 2018.

Unfortunately, the average or typical rates of asbestos exposure by county or city are not well characterized or documented for the State of California. However, individuals concerned about the exposure levels or risks in a particular locality may contact the California Air Resources Board (or a local air district), the California Geological Survey (formerly the Division of Mines and Geology), or another relevant agency. Meanwhile, persons curious about the statistics of an asbestos-related disease may contact a local public health agency or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California Counties with the Most Naturally Occurring Asbestos

Naturally occurring asbestos(abbreviated as NOA) is a term that refers to the asbestos mineral in its natural state, in rocks and soils, as against its processed form. NOA can be found in at least 44 out of California's 58 counties, mostly in serpentine and ultramafic rock formations near fault zones and in soils where these rock types are present. California's most common type of asbestos mineral is chrysotile, but actinolite and tremolite can be found in the state.

Generally, naturally occurring asbestos only becomes a health concern when disturbed, causing asbestos fibers to be suspended in the air or mixed with water. Human activity all too frequently is the primary cause of these emissions. Activities that can contribute to NOA emissions include:

  • Quarrying and mining operations
  • Building demolitions
  • New housing developments
  • Human recreational or household activities (e.g., gardening)

Nonetheless, asbestos fibers can be released by the natural weathering and erosion of asbestos-containing rocks or soils.

Below are California counties with the most naturally occurring asbestos, according to the California Geological Survey, United States Geological Survey, and Environmental Protection Agency.

El Dorado County

California's El Dorado County is situated on one of the largest asbestos deposits in the United States. One particularly risky site that made the news is the El Dorado Hills. Research conducted by the U.S. EPA in 2004 revealed that people performing simple outdoor activities in the town had an elevated risk of exposure to NOA. The EPA and other agencies that participated in the research, such as the ATSDR, concluded that prolonged exposure to naturally occurring asbestos in the El Dorado Hills area could harm people's health.

Currently, several federal, state, and local agencies, including the El Dorado County Air Quality Management District, recommend precautionary measures for residents, especially around playgrounds and community park areas where NOA may be disturbed. One such recommendation is that residents should wet soil before digging or wet rags before dusting furniture and floors to avoid exposure to dust containing asbestos fibers.

A map of the most likely areas to find naturally occurring asbestos in El Dorado County is available on the county's Air Quality Management District's website. The California Department of Conservation also publishes a similar map, though restricted to western El Dorado County.

San Benito County

Certain areas in San Benito County are hotspots for asbestos exposure. An example is the Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA), a popular 75,000-acre recreational area sitting on a 31,000-acre serpentine deposit, and the former location of the Atlas Asbestos Mine (now a Superfund site).

CCMA sees thousands of visitors every year, including campers, hikers, hunters, motorcyclists, botanists, and rock collectors. However, to limit public exposure to asbestos in the serpentine area, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the department charged with managing the site, allows each person five visits per calendar year.

The Clear Creek Management Area also includes portions of Fresno County.

Placer County

Placer County also has areas rife with ultramafic rocks and serpentinite (places where NOA is most likely to be found). In the report compiled by the California Geological Survey, the Auburn, Colfax, Meadow Vista, and Foresthill communities are among these areas. Some parts of the Tahoe National Forest also have a high probability of naturally occurring asbestos.

Humboldt County

According to the U.S. EPA, Humboldt County is another region in California where naturally occurring asbestos is known to exist in large quantities.

Monterey County

Monterey contains naturally occurring asbestos in abundance. Specifically, soil samples collected from the Salinas Valley in 2002 showed the presence of asbestos minerals.

It is crucial to note, however, that the above only constitute a small set of counties known to have many natural asbestos deposits in California. NOA may be present in large quantities in other counties, given the state's geology and that geologic reports or maps may not show all potential NOA occurrences in a county. Indeed, according to many state agencies, NOA is especially prevalent in counties of the Klamath Mountains, the Sierra Nevada foothills, and the Coast Ranges.

The U.S. Geological Survey provides an interactive map that interested persons may reference to locate natural asbestos deposits around their homes in California. Also, the California Geological Survey has a general location guide listing areas more likely to have NOA in the state.

California Public Buildings with Documented Asbestos

Section 25925 of the California Health and Safety Code defines a "public building" as any structure, facility, or building leased or owned by the state, the University of California, or any local agency. This definition does not include a primary or secondary school building or structure.

In California, asbestos construction materials were commonly used in public buildings for soundproofing, thermal insulation, fireproofing, etc. As a result, many older public buildings today contain asbestos. Exposure to asbestos in such structures can be detrimental to a person's health.

Overall, there is no published list, directory, or other comprehensive document detailing all California public buildings that contain asbestos. However, state regulations approve an Asbestos Assessment Task Force, made up of representatives from the State Department of Health Services, the Department of General Services, the Department of Industrial Relations, and the Commission on Building Standards. One of the task force's duties is to check for the presence and condition of asbestos in public buildings. The squad is also responsible for developing methods and standards for effective asbestos control.

Furthermore, the legislature assigns certain responsibilities to owners and managers of public buildings constructed before 1979. Such parties are required to notify employees and occupants of asbestos and, in some cases, prepare an asbestos management plan to limit the potential for asbestos exposure.

Hence, persons requiring asbestos information on a specific public building can contact the task force or the building owner/manager. This information may be available online as well. For example, the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) publishes a list of buildings containing asbestos; the list also specifies the location of asbestos in a building and the type of asbestos-bearing building material.

California Asbestos Mines and Environmental Risks

Back in the day, California had several asbestos mines and was one of the leading asbestos producers in the United States. The state was home to these many mines because of the abundance of natural asbestos deposits. The historic asbestos mines in California include:

  • The Atlas Asbestos Mine, which closed in 1975
  • The Coalinga Asbestos Mine, which closed in 1979
  • The Union Carbide Nuclear Company Mine, which was sold in 1985 and renamed the King City Asbestos Company Mine

Presently, asbestos mining is not permitted in the United States. The last mine in California (the King City Asbestos Company mine) ceased operation in 2002; it was also the last functioning asbestos mine in the country. However, these mines still pose serious environmental and health risks to nearby communities.

For these residents, extra precautions are often needed to minimize the risk of environmental exposure, such as driving slowly over unpaved roads, keeping windows and doors shut on windy days or during construction, and wiping down pets with a wet cloth after they have been outside. The California Air Resources Board publishes detailed protective measures online.

California Firefighter Asbestos Exposure

Historically and today, firefighting is among the high-risk professions for asbestos exposure and serious asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos was widely used in various building materials and components before 1980. Yet, although asbestos use has been largely phased out in construction, many pre-1980 residential and public buildings still contain asbestos. Asbestos may lie in cement, drywall, plaster, door gaskets, patching and joint compounds, insulation, flooring and ceiling tiles, roofing materials, and furnaces in such buildings.

In California, a firefighter's exposure risk originates on duty, particularly when they have to carry out routine operations in burning or collapsed buildings. If an older structure collapses or catches fire, the asbestos-containing materials within the structure may become damaged and the air contaminated with tiny asbestos fibers. A firefighter involved in a rescue or cleanup operation in the building may be exposed to asbestos at the scene if their personal protective equipment (PPE) is removed or poorly fitted. In other cases, the fibers may latch onto the firefighter's hair, clothing, or safety gear, making them susceptible to exposure later on.

Fire stations may also present a risk of asbestos exposure to firefighters in California. Some of these stations are situated in old buildings, and maintenance and repairs may be neglected or delayed. Hence, firefighters may undertake these tasks themselves, and it may cause them to be exposed to asbestos in the floors, walls, and ceilings. (A recent case in 2019 had thousands of firefighters, including children who used the facility for camp, exposed to asbestos at a training facility in San Diego, California, because the city failed to address a known asbestos issue. The case has seen hundreds of firefighters filing documents against the city to establish their right to financial compensation if they get sick.)

Asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma are examples of asbestos-related illnesses that exposed firefighters may suffer. A study performed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2013 found that the mesothelioma incidence rate for firefighters was twice as high as the rate in the general U.S. population.

California Veterans Asbestos Exposure

Military exposure is one of the more typical sources of asbestos exposure in California, as, at one time, every branch of the United States armed forces utilized asbestos because of its durability, heat resistance properties, and inexpensiveness. Common military exposure sites included shipyards, boiler rooms, bases, airplanes, submarines, armored vehicles, and ships. Notably, asbestos usage in the military did not skyrocket until World War II (1939–45), when the fireproofing qualities of asbestos were in high demand to build/repair ships and weaponry.

Although not everyone who suffers asbestos exposure falls ill, veterans, especially those who served in the U.S. Navy before 1970, are at an increased risk of contracting an asbestos-related disease due to the pervasive use of asbestos products across the military branches. Indeed, veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos-related illness, constitute a considerable percentage of mesothelioma cases in the country.

Non-cancerous Conditions Caused by Asbestos Exposure

It is well known that asbestos causes various illnesses in human beings. However, not all health conditions are malignant (cancerous). Some, while serious, may not necessarily shorten an exposed individual's life span, but they may increase a person's chances of contracting deadly diseases. Similar to malignant asbestos diseases, individuals may not show signs of benign (non-cancerous) asbestos-related diseases until decades (possibly 20 to 50 years) after their first exposure. The following are some non-cancerous conditions caused by asbestos exposure:


Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease caused when tiny asbestos fibers are inhaled and get lodged in the lungs. Over time, these fibers cause inflammation and scarring (fibrosis) in the lung tissue, preventing the lungs from functioning normally and leading the affected person to experience chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.

Although asbestosis is not classified as a cancerous disease, it is severe and irreversible. It can eventually advance to heart failure, respiratory failure, lung cancer, or mesothelioma (a rare and deadly type of lung cancer attributed to asbestos exposure). In some cases, asbestosis can result in loss of life.

More often than not, people who develop asbestosis have a history of long-term occupational exposure to asbestos. While asbestosis cannot be cured in such persons, it can be managed for many years after diagnosis with medical treatment, e.g., lung transplant surgery, pulmonary rehabilitation, or oxygen therapy.

Pleural plaques

This is one of the more common types of benign asbestos diseases. It is characterized by chalky deposits of thickened tissue that form on the pleura, the thin membrane lining the surface of the lungs and inside of the chest wall. The buildup is often composed of calcified collagen (a protein found throughout the body) and found on the parietal pleura (the outer layer lining the inside of the chest wall).

Pleural plaques typically develop around 20 years after the initial asbestos exposure. The disease is primarily asymptomatic, does not require medical treatment, does not affect a person's quality of life, and does not result in a loss of lung function. However, it is not reversible or removable. Usually, doctors will recommend lifestyle changes (regular exercise, no smoking, a healthy diet) to prevent further thickening of the pleura and keep the lungs healthy.

It should be noted that while pleural plaques are not life-threatening and do not cause cancer, some studies suggest that patients may develop mesothelioma, particularly pleural mesothelioma.

Pleural effusions

Pleural effusion refers to the accumulation of excess fluids in the pleural space between the lungs and chest cavity. Symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, collapse of the lung, and chest pain.

A pleural effusion is easily treatable by drainage and not immediately fatal. However, it is often an indication of other serious illnesses, like asbestosis and mesothelioma. It can also lead to death if the fluid gets infected or the condition is left untreated.

Other non-cancerous asbestos-related diseases include:

  • Peritoneal effusions: Buildup of excess fluid in the abdominal cavity.
  • Pericardial effusions: Excess fluid buildup in the pericardial space (the membrane sac) surrounding the heart.
  • Pleurisy: Inflammation of the pleura by asbestos fibers.
  • Rounded atelectasis (folded lung syndrome): An atypical form of lung collapse primarily associated with asbestos exposure.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (or COPD): A type of lung disease that blocks airflow and causes breathing difficulties. While COPD may be triggered by prolonged asbestos exposure, it is frequently induced by long-term smoking.
  • Diffuse pleural thickening or DPT: An illness that stems from the thickening of scarring on the pleura. This scarring is caused by inhaled asbestos fibers.

Asbestos Exposure in California: Who is Responsible and How Do I Prove It?

Asbestos poses serious health threats not only to persons exposed to high concentrations short-term but also to those who suffer lower levels of exposure over time. There is no safe level of exposure.

As explained earlier, asbestos is a naturally occurring substance; thus, environmental exposure cannot be completely ruled out. However, most asbestos exposure cases arise from industry-wide negligence: companies that mined, processed, or produced asbestos products knew of the mineral's toxic effects. Yet, they deliberately concealed the truth from the public and their employees for decades. For this reason, victims of asbestos exposure have legal recourse against such companies and employers in California.

Entities that may be held responsible for a person's exposure include:

  • Manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos products
  • Raw asbestos fiber companies
  • Mining companies
  • Owners of asbestos-contaminated buildings and properties
  • Employers who used asbestos-containing products on job sites

There are different asbestos claims and lawsuits that a victim can file to receive financial compensation from the liable parties. However, one criterion common to these cases is that the victim must be able to prove exposure. This is often the daunting part of a case, as it involves connecting a company's negligent actions or asbestos product to an individual's exposure - and more than one company may share responsibility.

For instance, if an individual claims that they were exposed to asbestos at a job site, they may present evidence (witnesses or documents) showing that:

  • A liable party employed them.
  • Asbestos exposure occurred at a related worksite.
  • The asbestos company or employer knew about the dangers of asbestos exposure.
  • The company or employer failed to limit or prevent the injured person's risk of exposure.

On the other hand, a family member alleging secondhand exposure may show that a household member worked with asbestos in the period when the exposure took place. Typically, a claimant or plaintiff must have a related disability (and be able to prove it) to obtain compensation under an asbestos claim or lawsuit. The services of an attorney seasoned in asbestos litigation are especially invaluable when determining or tracking down the liable entity and proving one's asbestos exposure or illness.

Can Multiple Jobs Be Responsible for Asbestos Exposure?

Yes. Asbestos mining and manufacturing were booming industries in the late 1800s and until the late 1900s. As a result, many individuals had more than one job that exposed them to asbestos.

Commercial and industrial uses of asbestos are no longer as widespread. However, past asbestos workers are still at risk of developing serious illnesses. Such persons have the right to seek damages under California's civil law.