3 Min Read
Last Updated: 08/23/2023
Fact Checked

Written by Aaron Munz | Edited By Walter Pacheco

The Hunters Point area had asbestos, PCBs and radioactive materials. Because of this, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called it a Superfund site in 1989. Superfund sites are sites with an extensive level of contamination from toxic materials. The EPA can make the people responsible for the mess clean it up or use funding to do it.

Federal, state and local agencies have been working for years on cleaning up the Hunters Point area for current residents. In 1990, workers removed more than 220,000 square feet of building materials containing asbestos from two dozen areas at the site.

The International Journal of Environmental Health Research in 2021 published a review. It reviewed a study of seafarers from five Nordic countries. They have more than double the risk of developing mesothelioma compared to the general public.

Asbestos Contamination

Hunters Point covers more than 600 acres in the southeastern part of San Francisco. Many of the buildings on the site were constructed during and after World War II.

Back then, they used materials like roofing shingles and floor tiles that had asbestos. Asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. The EPA has declared that there is no “safe” level for asbestos exposure.

Many residents have cited ongoing health issues because of asbestos and other contaminants at the HPNSY site. One reported a burning sensation in the mouth, while another tested positive for both asbestos and mercury in the blood. A major health concern for those exposed to asbestos is mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelioma can take decades to develop. When doctors detect the disease, the patient typically lives less than two years after a diagnosis.

A 2017 study of shipyard workers with a moderate level of asbestos exposure were nearly four times more likely to die of mesothelioma.

Environmental Impact

The city of San Francisco bought the site in 1980 and built federally subsidized housing for low-income families. Reports later surfaced that the housing units contained asbestos-based epoxies to keep floor tiles in place.

The scale of the asbestos contamination at HPNSY has affected hundreds of residents at the townhouse complex built on the site. When one of the units flooded, the floor tiles came loose. The asbestos fibers in the adhesives floated through the air, which made the unit uninhabitable.

Residents were forced to move out of the complex due to the dangers of the airborne asbestos.

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Back in 2006, workers were fixing up an old base. They made dust while working, and this dust had asbestos from nearby rocks mixed in.

Residents say that Lennar Corporation did not report the dust cloud or the high concentrations of asbestos in the dust. The city’s office for air pollution control voted to fine the company for failing to monitor asbestos concentration levels.

EPA, Lennar Cooperation

Some groups claim that state and federal officials cooperated with Lennar executives. They downplayed the impact of asbestos and other pollutants on the job site. One group, the Stop Lennar Action Movement (SLAM), published a series of emails between the EPA, government officials and Lennar.

Email messages show that officials discussed minimizing the impact of the asbestos contamination. so that construction could continue at the Hunters Point site. SLAM and other community groups called for an investigation into the alleged cover-up.

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