Risk of Asbestos Exposure in Arizona
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral mined for its durability and heat resistance. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started referring to the mineral as a toxin in 1970 after heavy exposure led to an incline of health-related issues among workers. From the late-1800s until the mid-1900s, the asbestos industry in Arizona boomed.
Arizona contained over 100 sites containing natural deposits of the toxin, which heavily influenced the mining industry throughout the state. While mineral-rich areas brought dozens of mining businesses to the state, health issues eventually shut down the industry in Arizona for good. Nearly 500 Arizona residents have passed away from mesothelioma, which is an often fatal cancer affecting the lungs, abdomen, or thoracic cavity. Exposure to the carcinogen is the principal cause of mesothelioma.
Mining in Arizona
Central Arizona counties like Gila and Pinal contained the highest concentrations of chrysotile deposits, the most common form of the toxin. Minor deposits of the carcinogen occurred in other counties like Cochise, Coconino, and Yuma. After decades of mining throughout the 1900s, companies located around the Salt River Canyon collectively mined about 75,000 tons of the carcinogen.
American Indian reservations like Arizona’s San Carlos Indian Reservation operated mines at several sites, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue by the mid-1900s. The San Carlos Indian Reservation operated five mines during the 1950s, including Apache, Pine Top, Bear Canyon, Salt Kiver, and Great View. The mines were established in 1872 in southeastern Arizona, where the carcinogen had been the most important resource on the land.
Miners who came into contact with raw asbestos risked inhaling or ingesting airborne fibers. High amounts of exposure among mine employees put them at extremely high risk for developing mesothelioma or asbestosis. Asbestos mines across Arizona include:
- Abril Mine
- Apache Mine
- Bass Mine
- Bear Canyon Mine
- Cemetery Ridge
- Chiricahua Claim
- Dome Rock Mountains Mine
- Empire No. 2 Shaft
- Great View Mines
- Hance Mine
- Jaquays Mining Corporation
- Kyle Asbestos Mines
- Mystery Claim
- Phillips Asbestos Mines
- Pine Top Mine
- Putman Wash
- Rek Towne Mine
- Roadside Mines
- Salt River Mine
- Sorsen Asbestos Prospect
- Stansbury Asbestos Prospect
The last mine in Arizona shut down in the early 1980s after workers and area residents began developing serious health issues related to exposure.
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Asbestos mines in Arizona were not the only source of exposure among workers. Several other industries manufactured the toxin itself or into its products. The toxin could also be found integrated into workplace structures. Some workplaces in Arizona known for exposure include Phelps Dodge Copper Mine, Magma Copper Company, Cholla Power Plant, and Yucca Power Plant. Arizona industries that used the toxin are:
- Copper Smelting
- Power Plants
Yuma Marine Corps Air Station
The Yuma Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS Yuma), built in 1928 as a training facility for the Air Force, occupies nearly 3,000 acres of land near Yuma, Arizona. The Marines started to occupy MCAS Yuma in the late 1950s, where they were exposed to large amounts of contamination. The EPA listed the site on the Superfund List in the 1990s, when testing samples determined multiple contaminated materials were present, including asbestos.
Asbestos Shipments To Arizona
The conglomerate company W.R. Grace was founded by William Russell Grace in 1854. The company started out in fertilizer and machinery, but later got involved with shipping, banking, oil, healthcare, and mining. Mining operations included silver, clay, phosphate, tin, and ore.
From the 1920s until 1990, the company shipped several million tons of ore across the United States from its mines in Libby, Montana. Shipments of the ore contained trace amounts of the carcinogen. Arizona received over 212,000 tons of the toxic ore in over 2,200 shipments from 1948 to 1933. Cities in Arizona that received shipments from Libby include Tucson and Phoenix. W.R. Grace also operated a sister site in Phoenix, known as Solomon’s Mines.
Another large vermiculite processing plant, called Ari-Zonolite, operated in Glendale, where it received more than 212,400 shipments of contaminated ore from W.R. Grace’s Libby site between 1951 and 1964. Other businesses occupied the Ari-Zonplite site until 2002.
In 2011, the EPA investigated the site and found significant levels of contamination in soil samples. According to the investigation, three out of seven samples contained the toxin. Former employees and nearby residents living within a one-mile radius were likely exposed to airborne fibers.
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Legal Help For Arizona Residents
Each state has its own laws for the amount of time someone can file a claim against one or more companies. According to the statute of limitations guidelines for Arizona, residents have two years to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim. To learn more about asbestos claims, download a free copy of our mesothelioma guide.