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Asbestos Levels in California Town Don’t Warrant Full-Scale Health Study: CDC

2010-04-22 11:15:25 (GMT) ( - Featured, Mesothelioma Asbestos, Press Release)

El Dorado Hills, CA (Mesothelioma News) – While residents of El Dorado Hills, Calif., face increased risk of disease from exposure to naturally occurring asbestos-in particular, a risk of mesothelioma, an almost always fatal cancer-federal health officials say that the asbestos levels don’t appear to be high enough to warrant an extensive health study.

That determination, released in late March in a “health consultation” report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has left some residents disappointed. They fear that development in this northern California region-in particular on El Dorado Hills’ Oak Ridge, an area known to contain a particularly toxic form of asbestos-will cause additional exposure, resulting in an increased risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancer.

A full-blown study, residents contend, would have allayed, or justified, their concerns.

Mesothelioma, a cancer of the membranes that line the lungs, and other body cavities, can take decades to develop. Over the years, lawyers have been successful in obtaining large mesothelioma settlements and verdicts against employers and asbestos manufacturers who did not take sufficient safety measures after the link between asbestos and mesothelioma was known.

But less is known about the link between disease and naturally occurring asbestos, which can be is released into the air when dislodged from rock. Development proponents in El Dorado Hills have argued that their plans should not be curtailed.

Nadine Lauren, leader of a group that opposes development on Oak Ridge, says she’d prefer that county officials and developers err on the side of caution. She called the argument that not enough is known about the link between naturally occurring asbestos and disease “a curtain a lot of people are hiding behind.”

Development is not the residents’ only worry. Air sampling performed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2004 found that people engaged in outdoor recreational activities in El Dorado Hills could breathe in high levels of asbestos.

Federal health officials say a more extensive health study would not be useful. “We don’t think the exposure is high enough that we would be able to measure elevated rates of disease in the community,” says Jill Dyken, a federal environmental health scientist. The number of people in El Dorado Hills who would develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancer would probably be very low, according to the March CDC report, which also noted that exposures in the community were much lower than those cited in historical studies of asbestos workers.

A study would further be complicated by the decades it typically takes for asbestos-related cancer and other disease to develop, while the large increases in El Dorado Hill’s population and development have only occurred in the past 15 years.

Dyken added, however, that the agency’s recommendation could be revised as new research on the health effects of exposure to naturally occurring asbestos evolves.

The government’s findings follow an EPA report in 2005 that focused on the extent of asbestos exposure in El Dorado Hills, including the Oak Ridge High School campus. The new report takes a broader look at potential health risks and what can be done to minimize the risks of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancer. It reinforces the importance of safety measures, including the county’s strict dust control regulations for construction.

Gerri Silva, county environmental management director, said that El Dorado Hills will work with federal health officials to better educate the public on ways to minimize asbestos exposure.

This news article was reported by the mesothelioma lawyers at Cooney & Conway, a nationally recognized asbestos litigation law firm.

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