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Last Edited: 2/9/2009

Naturally Occurring Asbestos: A Needs Assessment of Local Health Agencies
Written: 12/17/08


Large regions of the western United States, including most counties in California, contain abundant naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) deposits. Any activity that disturbs the soil can result in NOA fibers becoming airborne, including construction grading, driving and cycling on unpaved roads, gardening, and playing on soil. Studies from other countries and a recent study in California have associated increased risks of asbestos-related disease with living in areas containing NOA deposits.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) initiated a needs assessment survey of the 45 counties in California with NOA deposits. The goal was to describe the NOA-related resources and needs of local health agencies for health educational materials, training, and technical assistance. Health Officers and/or Environmental Health Directors from 25 counties responded. In addition, three Health Officers provided in-depth responses to key issues in follow-up interviews.

Respondents from nine counties indicated that their departments had the capacity to address NOA, while respondents from the other 16 stated that they did not. Three counties were actively addressing potential exposures to NOA by offering guidance for the construction industry and developing websites and fact sheets with NOA information. Training and/or guidance requested by the respondents included education about routes of exposures and health effects, NOA geology, sampling and analytical methodologies, and effective mitigation strategies.

The needs assessment survey was also distributed to 11 Air Pollution Control Districts (APCDs), based on recommendations by the Health Officers and Environmental Health Directors. Representatives from seven APCDs responded: all were actively addressing NOA through enforcement of state regulations. Six of the seven respondents indicated that the state could provide support and training, particularly with respect to informing community residents about potential health risks associated with NOA exposures.

Local health agencies report a broad range of NOA-related training needs. In California, multiple state agencies have different areas of public health authority and expertise regarding NOA. A multi-organizational venue, such as a state interagency working group, may be required for state agencies to provide a wide range of training needs and other resources identified by local agencies.

NOA Needs Assessment  (Size:  604KB)