Families who send their kids to Mountain View High School, in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte, received disturbing news this past February, when it was discovered that a waste disposal company neighboring the high school was illegally transporting and storing hazardous waste, including asbestos. Titan Environmental, Inc, had been operating at the site near the high school, for the past five months, since September 2011.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber, that due to it's heat resistant and bonding properties, was widely used in construction and insulating materials manufactured and distributed throughout most of the 20th century, by companies who acted with disregard for the health of the worker and the public. Asbestos was also used extensively as an insulating material and mechanical component additive on U.S. Navy vessels. Inhaling the fiber causes chronic scarring of the lungs, and can result in the development of asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, widely accepted as incurable, is a cancer of the lining surrounding the lung, and heart, and diaphragm, appears decades after exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is classified as a carcinogen by local authorities in Los Angeles, and at both the state and federal level.
Noted mesothelioma patient attorney Michael Mandelbrot, founder of the Asbestos Legal Center in San Francisco, reacted with outrage to the news of Titan Environmental's illegal activity. "It is despicable that a company would be operating an illegal asbestos storage and transport facility next to a high school. The ramifications may not be truly known until such time many of kids at this school return for their twentieth high school reunion. Titan Environmental should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law for this reckless conduct. Compensation should be identified and set aside to pay for medical bills, should any child become sick in the future."
Between 600 to 800 bags of asbestos containing materials were found stored at the site, located adjacent to the schools running track and football field. State law disallows fully licensed and legally operating facilities to be within 500 feet from any school. Penalties for Titan Environmental's conduct may include fines of $25,000 per day.
The Air Quality Management District has set up a perimeter of air sampling equipment around the Titan Environmental facility, to ensure that levels of airborne asbestos do not rise above hazardous levels during the cleanup of the site. Moreover, the Air Quality Management District took 15 samples on five separate occasions in February, and detected no measurable level of asbestos. Unfortunately it is impossible to determine whether prior to February, 2012 levels of airborne asbestos rose to hazardous levels. The facility opened in September, 2011.
The Department of Toxic Substance Control has taken responsibility for informing the public as to how clean up efforts are proceeding at the facility. The community notice they released can be found online, here. The notice fails to indicate what types of asbestos fibers were present at the site, a detail that may become useful in the future should any child fall ill. Most experts agree, that while no exposure to asbestos fiber is safe, different types of asbestos fiber have varying degrees of