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Asbestos Information

This is a list of answers to frequently asked questions about the naturally occuring asbestos (NOA) in El Dorado Hills.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the name given to a group of six different fibrous minerals (amosite, chrysotile, crocidolite, and the fibrous varieties of tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite) that occur naturally in the environment. Asbestos minerals have separable long fibers that are strong and flexible enough to be spun and woven and are heat resistant. Because of these characteristics, asbestos has been used for a wide range of manufactured goods, mostly in building materials (roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products, and asbestos cement products), friction products (automobile clutch, brake, and transmission parts), heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and coatings. Some vermiculite or talc products may contain asbestos.
Source: ToxFAQs
Where is asbestos found?
Asbestos is commonly found in ultramafic rock, including serpentine, and near fault zones. The amount of asbestos that is typically present in these rocks range from less than 1% up to about 25%, and sometimes more. Asbestos is released from ultramafic and serpentine rock when it is broken or crushed. This can happen when cars drive over unpaved roads or driveways which are surfaced with these rocks, when land is graded for building purposes, or at quarrying operations. It is also released naturally through weathering and erosion. Once released from the rock, asbestos can become airborne and may stay in the air for long periods of time.

Other sources of asbestos are in man-made products. The most common sources are heat-resistant insulators, cement, furnace or pipe coverings, inert filler material, fireproof gloves and clothing, and brake linings. Asbestos has been used in the United States since the early 1900's; however, asbestos is no longer allowed as a constituent in most home products and materials. Many older buildings, schools, and homes still have asbestos containing products. Therefore, laws are in place to protect citizens when these buildings are renovated or demolished.

For a map of the specific locations where asbestos is found in El Dorado Hills, visit the El Dorado County website's NOA Map.
How might I be exposed to asbestos?
We are all exposed to low levels of asbestos in the air we breathe. These levels range from 0.00001 to 0.0001 fibers per milliliter of air and generally are highest in cities and industrial areas.

People working in industries that make or use asbestos products or who are involved in asbestos mining may be exposed to high levels of asbestos. People living near these industries may also be exposed to high levels of asbestos in air. Wearing an asbestos respirator will protect you against any harmful particles.

Asbestos fibers may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling. In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed in some way to release particles and fibers into the air.

Drinking water may contain asbestos from natural sources or from asbestos-containing cement pipes.

Source: ToxFAQs
What are the health risks?
Asbestos mainly affects the lungs and the membrane that surrounds the lungs. Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers for a long time may result in scar-like tissue in the lungs and in the pleural membrane (lining) that surrounds the lung. This disease is called asbestosis and is usually found in workers exposed to asbestos, but not in the general public. People with asbestosis have difficulty breathing, often a cough, and in severe cases heart enlargement. Asbestosis is a serious disease and can eventually lead to disability and death.

Breathing lower levels of asbestos may result in changes called plaques in the pleural membranes. Pleural plaques can occur in workers and sometimes in people living in areas with high environmental levels of asbestos. Effects on breathing from pleural plaques alone are not usually serious, but higher exposure can lead to a thickening of the pleural membrane that may restrict breathing.
Source: ToxFAQs
How likely is asbestos to cause cancer?
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the EPA have determined that asbestos is a human carcinogen.

It is known that breathing asbestos can increase the risk of cancer in people. There are two types of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos: lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the thin lining surrounding the lung (pleural membrane) or abdominal cavity (the peritoneum). Cancer from asbestos does not develop immediately, but shows up after a number of years. Studies of workers also suggest that breathing asbestos can increase chances of getting cancer in other parts of the body (stomach, intestines, esophagus, pancreas, and kidneys), but this is less certain. Early identification and treatment of any cancer can increase an individual's quality of life and survival.

Cigarette smoke and asbestos together significantly increase your chances of getting lung cancer. Therefore, if you have been exposed to asbestos you should stop smoking. This may be the most important action that you can take to improve your health and decrease your risk of cancer.
Source: ToxFAQs
Is there a test to show if I have been exposed to asbestos?
Asbestos-related conditions can be difficult to identify.  Healthcare providers usually identify the possibility of asbestos exposure and related health conditions, like lung and pleural disease, by taking a thorough medical history. This includes looking at the person's medical, work, cultural, and environmental history. After a physician suspects an asbestos-related health condition, he or she can use a number of tools to help make the actual diagnosis. These tools include:

1. Physical Examination
2. Chest X-ray
3. Pulmonary function tests
4. Biopsy/Bronchoscopy
5. Computed Tomography Scans
Source: ATSDR
Does any treatment exist?
The following are important steps for minimizing risks of asbestos-related disorders:

- Minimize or avoid further exposure to any form of asbestos (wear an asbestos respirator if possible);
- Stop smoking and avoid tobacco smoke (second hand) and other pulmonary sensitizers and irritants;
- Get regular medical care;
- Consider appropriate vaccines (such as influenza and pneumonia) based on physician recommendations to prevent other pulmonary infections.
Source: ATSDR
For More Information:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Division of Toxicology
1600 Clifton Road NE, Mailstop F-32
Atlanta, GA 30333
Phone: 1-888-42-ATSDR (1-888-422-8737)
FAX:   (770)-488-4178
Email: ATSDRIC@cdc.gov
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