Mesothelioma claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people in the Golden State between 1999 and 2010, while asbestosis added more than 400 deaths in that time period. In addition to some of the largest naturally occurring asbestos deposits in the country, California has a history of significant exposure to asbestos through naval shipyards, an injustice that has plagued many of our nation’s heroic veterans.
For example, the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco was shut down in 1991 after the Environmental Protection Agency placed it on the “Superfund National Priorities List,” an agenda geared towards discontinuing or rehabilitating sites where hazardous chemicals, including asbestos, pose an excessive threat.
Sailors stationed at this shipyard who suffer from mesothelioma would have been exposed to asbestos decades earlier however, as the disease embodies a lengthy latency period. The height of asbestos utilization at Hunters Point took place in the early 1940s, as was the case for many shipyards along the coast. Exposure in such settings occurred through work with asbestos-containing insulation, gaskets, cables, cement, pipe-fittings, and numerous other parts of naval ships and submarines. Similar risks were posed at the San Diego Naval Base, Alameda Naval Air Station, Concord Naval Weapons Station, and many other locations.
Unfortunately, other areas contaminated with asbestos on the EPA’s superfund list in California still stand as a potential hazard to the public, including the South Bay Asbestos Area in Santa Clara County. According to the EPA, this 550-acre location served as an asbestos dumping ground for a manufacturing plant for nearly three decades during the mid to late 1990s. Consequently, airborne exposure to asbestos fibers that enter the atmosphere after being disturbed by truck traffic and other activity stands as a potential risk for people who live in and around the site, located specifically at the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay.
Asbestos exposure also occurred at the California Zonolite facility in Glendale. Zonolite, the commercial name for vermiculite collected at the infamous Libby, Montana mine, was acquired by the W.R. Grace Company in 1963. Vermiculite is a mineral that often contains asbestos, ultimately posing a significant health threat to the employees of W.R. Grace & Company, as well as citizens who lived in close proximity to the 2.75-acre facility. The California Zonolite location alone received more than 120,000 tons of asbestos-containing vermiculite from Libby, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the largest municipal utility in the country serving 4.1 million residents of Southern California, paid $60 million in punitive damages to the wife of one of its employees who was diagnosed with mesothelioma through the laundering of her husband’s work clothing. His work on asbestos-containing products at LADWP power plants ultimately soiled his uniform with hazardous asbestos particles, particles which his wife breathed in when she performed the laundry. This secondary exposure constitutes a fate that has been met by many who handle the clothing of a loved one who works in an asbestos trade. The LADWP employee manipulated asbestos particles through the cutting of pipes, but asbestos was also found in the power plants’ generators and electrical wires. The $60 million paid by LADWP in 2010 was thirty percent of the total $200 million received by the victim, as LADWP was found by the jury to be thirty percent liable for her mesothelioma.
Nuclear power plants of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company also contained asbestos in much of their insulation materials, including those that were used to wrap high heat equipment such as pipes, generators, and electrical wires. As a result, workers who installed, repaired, and/or removed this equipment were exposed to asbestos. Several classes of workers have filed lawsuits against PG&E, including pipefitters, insulators, welders, and electricians. A lawsuit brought against PG&E in 1998 even involved numerous residents of Pittsburg, CA who were not employed by the company, but were exposed to asbestos after pipes at a PG&E location were not properly secured to a boiler, ultimately contaminating homes and boats in the area.
California mesothelioma lawyers at LK have extensive expertise and experience in investigating complex asbestos exposure histories and representing CA asbestos disease victims in court.