California: Asbestos & Lead in Kezar Pavilion Cause for Safety Concern

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — March 7, 2008 — Could asbestos and lead exposure at the Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco be to blame for the high incidence of cancer in Recreation and Park Department employees? Some certainly think so. Asbestos was recently removed from the building where the stricken employees spent significant amounts of time. High levels of lead were found in the drinking water.

The city consulted with federal occupation health and safety experts who concluded that the high number of cancer deaths were not related to asbestos or lead exposure. Nevertheless, the Rec and Park workers’ union notified city management that Kezar Pavilion is an unsafe workplace. The union specifically cited asbestos, lead, and the possibility of other existing unknown toxins.

Too Many Cancer Deaths–the History of Kezar Pavilion

Cancer deaths that have occurred since the 1990s are believed to be more than just a “coincidence.” An alarming five out of 40 employees have died of cancer. Three more have tumors, two of which are non-malignant. One more employee is being monitored.

Tom Sandoval, 48, a former facility manager on medical leave, has voiced his concerns to Park and Rec supervisors about the workplace for years. “There’s something in the building, in the environment, that’s getting us sick,” said Sandoval, who has been diagnosed with Stage III testicular cancer that has spread to his lungs, sternum and near his liver. “With the small staff we had, it’s way beyond normal.” (San Francisco Chronicle, February 24, 2008)

Asbestos and lead are real issues of safety and concern for the Park and Rec employees who spend significant amounts of time at the workplace. Built-in 1924, the Kezar building is deteriorating inside and out. “I’ve questioned why things are not being repaired and why walls are open and exposed,” Sandoval said. “I’ve questioned the air quality. And people actually laughed at me. When you walk through the building, anyone would question the safety of it.” (San Francisco Chronicle, February 24, 2008) After he complained to the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the Rec and Park management seemed to make an effort to repair the building, and perform testing.

Asbestos Removed and Lead Found in the Water at San Francisco’s Kezar Pavilion

Part of repairing the building included the recent removal of asbestos from the building’s boiler room. Warning signs of the asbestos removal were posted throughout the Kezar Pavilion’s gymnasium as recently as Feb 6th. Asbestos exposure can cause debilitating diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer, and the fatal cancer mesothelioma.

Additionally, high levels of lead were found in the building’s drinking water. Among numerous other health issues, lead is known to cause cancer of the stomach and lungs. Management plans to have a consultant instruct employees on how to drink water out of the fountains and use the faucets.

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