Even in the “Great Outdoors,” Asbestos Dust Could be Present

In Northern California, there is much natural beauty. From the coast redwoods to the magnificent coastline, areas such as Humboldt County attract thousands for recreation and many who choose to live there because of the scenic beauty. Nevertheless, there is danger, ranging from getting lost in the forests, falling while climbing, or drowning in the ocean. Few residents or visitors probably think they have to worry about air quality far from the congested cities of Southern California.

Ironically, there are air quality concerns in a place as remote as Humboldt County. At a meeting of the board of supervisors and planning staff, questions were raised regarding airborne asbestos dust. This dust is typically the result of mining operations and is due to the presence of naturally occurring asbestos within the material being mined. When the dirt and rock is disturbed and processed, the dust can be laden with asbestos fibers.

These airborne asbestos fibers can be inhaled, and then lodge in the lungs. Given an unfortunate exposure and sufficient time, sometimes 20 to 40 years, a deadly lung cancer, known as malignant mesothelioma can develop.

The board discussed the use of buffers around mining operations and the need for air quality monitoring. They also noted that any mining in areas where asbestos may be disturbed requires notification of the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District.

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, is often located near other mineral deposits, so any mining operation should test for the presence of the mineral and provide protection to any employees who may be exposed.

Source:, “Natural Asbestos Prompts Air Quality Issues in Northern California,” Pat Guth, May 17, 2013