June 18th, 2007 07:34 EST
Former Workers at Glendale Plant Were Exposed to Asbestos
ATLANTA – Former workers who processed vermiculite from a mine in Libby, Montana at a plant in Glendale, California were exposed to asbestos and are at increased risk for developing asbestos related health problems, says a health consultation released today by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
The former California Zonolite/W.R. Grace & Company, located at 5440 West San Fernando Road in Glendale, processed vermiculite from Libby between 1950 and 1977. ATSDR estimates that from 70 to 150 former workers were exposed during the time the plant operated.
Most people who work or live near the site today are not at risk for asbestos exposure from the site. Not enough information exists to determine if people, workers included, took asbestos-contaminated waste rock from the plant to their homes and used it, for example, in gardens, in children’s play areas, and for fill or paving material.
The vermiculite from Libby contained asbestos. While exposure to asbestos does not mean a person will develop health problems, ATSDR has linked some exposures to Libby vermiculite to respiratory illnesses.
Today’s release is the final public health consultation in a series of 28 evaluations being conducted at sites across the United States that received and processed vermiculite mined in Libby, MT. The major findings for the Glendale site are consistent with many of those found at the other 27 sites evaluated, mainly:
- Former workers are most at risk for asbestos exposure.
- Those that lived with former workers while Libby vermiculite was being processed at the Glendale plant between 1950 and 1977 also could have been exposed to asbestos by workers carrying home asbestos fibers on their hair and clothing.
ATSDR recommends that former workers at the site, and household members who lived with them, take specific steps to protect their health and improve quality of life:
- Learn more about asbestos exposure,
- See a doctor with experience in asbestos-related lung disease,
- Quit smoking,
- Get regular flu and pneumonia shots.
People could have been exposed to asbestos if they handled or played in waste rock, a by-product of vermiculite exfoliation. At some vermiculite plants, workers or people in the community may have brought waste rock from the plant to their homes. This waste rock was used in many ways, for example in gardens and as fill or driveway surfacing material. When waste rock that is uncovered and open to the air is stirred up, asbestos fibers may be released into the air.
When Libby vermiculite was being processed at the plant between 1950 and 1977, emissions containing asbestos dust and fibers might have reached the downwind residential area. The California Department of Health Services (CDHS) completed a review of existing health statistics for the community surrounding the site and found no evidence of increased cancer incidence or mortality for asbestos-related diseases. However, because this type of analysis has limitations, ATSDR and CDHS cannot establish that the surrounding community was not exposed to Libby asbestos from the site or the extent of the exposure.
The public health consultation is for review at:
Atwater Village Branch Library
3379 Glendale Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90039
The health consultation is also available on-line at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/asbestos/sites/national_map/fact_sheets/losangelesca.html
Information about asbestos and ATSDR’s evaluation of 28 sites that received and processed Libby vermiculite is available on-line at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/asbestos/sites/national_map/.
For more information, community members can call Health Communication Specialist Maria Teran-MacIver, ATSDR, at 404-498-1754. Callers should refer to the former California Zonolite/W.R. Grace & Company site in Glendale, California.
ATSDR, a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, evaluates the human health effects from exposure to hazardous substances.
Members of the news media can request an interview with ATSDR staff by calling the NCEH/ATSDR Office of Communication at 404-498-0070.