Asbestos in New Mexico

new mexico
37th

ranking in U.S. for mesothelioma & asbestosis deaths

A state marked by a large total area but a relatively small population, New Mexico is diverse in its population, cultures and industries. Among the various industries, oil and gas production, federal spending and tourism account for the most important economic drivers in the state.

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The large focus on energy production and manufacturing may provide New Mexico with economic benefits, but it may also come at the expense of the health of some residents. Much of the materials, buildings and products used in these sectors have contained asbestos, a toxic and naturally occurring mineral that causes mesothelioma.

According to the state’s environmental department, 16 different mining districts in New Mexico have reported that asbestos is present within their mines. This fact presents a risk for exposure to workers and eventually to the consumers of the mined products. To combat such a health risk, treatment centers that focus on cancers such as mesothelioma have been established in the state. For patients who have developed cancers as a result of asbestos exposure, legal options can help patients receive financial assistance for medical costs.

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Mesothelioma and Asbestosis Deaths, 1999-2013

  • 197 mesothelioma deaths
  • 27 asbestosis deaths
  • 224 total deaths

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Occupational and Environmental Areas at Risk

Some locations, companies and industries in New Mexico have been known for increased risk of occupational and environmental exposure. New Mexico’s capital city and a major Air Force base are known hotspots for exposure, in addition to areas in the state where naturally forming asbestos is present.

Albuquerque

New Mexico’s largest city of Albuquerque is not only heavily populated but is also the home to many of the state’s economic drivers. Energy production, manufacturing and industrial companies reside in this big city, all of which are industries known for using asbestos-containing products. Records show that more than 57,000 tons of raw asbestos from Libby, Montana, alone have been shipped to Albuquerque.

Because of its insulating and fire-resistant properties, the mineral is used by many industrial companies as a protective layer for products like machinery, piping, wiring, gaskets, brakes, and boilers, and as an additive to cements, fillers, paints and more.

One such employer that utilized these materials in Albuquerque is the Kirtland Air Force Base, which is the city’s largest employer. Because many military bases have been historically known to contain asbestos, many of the past employees of Kirtland may be at increased risk for exposure. Asbestos-containing products that may be present at this Air Force base include sealants, paint, plumbing insulators and piping, in addition to other construction products.

Other employers in Albuquerque with a history of exposure in the workplace include Albuquerque and Cerrillos Coal Company, University of New Mexico, H.M. Public Service Power, Columbia Asbestos Company, Owens Corning Fiberglass, Reeves Power Plant, Bates Lumber Company, Albuquerque Gas & Electric and Kent Nowlin Construction Company.

Natural Deposits

Exposure occurs more commonly in a workplace setting when someone comes in contact with contaminated products or buildings, but exposure can also occur outside among natural asbestos deposits. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, New Mexico has multiple natural deposits of asbestos. A heavier concentration of asbestos appears to be located in the southwestern region of the state, with sporadic occurrences in the middle of the state. Chrysotile deposits have been found near some of the state’s small cities like Ruidoso. Erionite, a mineral that is similar to asbestos, can also be found in some places in New Mexico. Any interaction with these natural deposits may increase an individual’s risk of developing mesothelioma as well as other related diseases.

At-Risk Occupations in New Mexico

As the industries of oil and gas production, tourism and government spending serve as the primary economic drivers of the state, the workers within these sectors may face increased risk of exposure. Asbestos may be contained in the products or buildings that they are constantly around, so becoming informed about sources of exposure is recommended for workers.

When these materials are damaged, fibers that become airborne may pose a serious threat to the employees when exposed repeatedly over time. Workers in the following occupations may be at risk for exposure on the job in New Mexico:

Workers at risk for occupational asbestos exposure in New Mexico

  • Construction workers
  • Aircraft Mechanics
  • Drywall Tapers
  • Electrical Power Linemen
  • Insulators
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Electrical Engineers
  • Pipefitters
  • Teachers
  • Mechanical Engineers

Jobsites with Known Asbestos Exposure

  • PNM Resources, Inc.
  • San Juan Powerhouse
  • Phelps Dodge Mining
  • Four Corners Power Plant
  • Alta Vista Middle School

Litigation

New Mexico resembles many other states when it comes to asbestos litigation. People with mesothelioma and related diseases have pursued legal action by holding employers and the manufacturers of asbestos products responsible for the development of their diseases.

For example, in 2003 PNM Resources — one of the state’s largest electrical and power providers — was listed as a defendant in more than 15 such lawsuits. In another example, a New Mexico woman sued 48 companies in a 2011 case, claiming that they were responsible for her husband’s lung cancer and subsequent death.

As a result of changes in the legal landscape of how asbestos cases are tried, mesothelioma patients may pursue multiple defendants. New Mexico, like other states, has seen increases in the number of asbestos-related lawsuits over the past couple decades because there is a latency period of 20 to 50 years associated with asbestos-connected diseases.

Additional Resources

  1. Government Statistics on Deaths Due to Asbestos-Related Diseases -; EWG Action Fund. (2009) Retrieved from: http://www.ewg.org/research/maps/deaths-due-asbestos-related-diseases
  2. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry - Naturally Occurring Asbestos Locations in the Contiguous USA and Alaska and the 100 Fastest Growing U.S. Counties. (2007). Retrieved from: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/noa/docs/usamap.pdf
  3. UNM Cancer Center - Types of Treatments. (2011). Retrieved from: http://cancer.unm.edu/patients/patient-care/your-treatment/
  4. New Mexico Tech - Importance of Oil & Gas in New Mexico. (2008). Retrieved from: http://geoinfo.nmt.edu/resources/petroleum/
  5. Tax Foundation - Federal Spending Received Per Dollar of Taxes Paid by State, 2005. (2007). Retrieved from: http://taxfoundation.org/article/federal-spending-received-dollar-taxes-paid-state-2005
  6. Securities & Exchange Commission - Form 8-K Current Report. (2003). Retrieved from: http://www.sec.gov/
  7. High Beam Research - PNM Named in Asbestos Litigation. (2003). Retrieved from: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-100516461.html
  8. Asbury, K. (2011). New Mexico woman names 48 companies in asbestos case. The West Virginia Record. Retrieved from: http://wvrecord.com/stories/510600298-new-mexico-woman-names-48-companies-in-asbestos-case
  9. New Mexico Environment Department - Asbestos Notification Requirements. (2011). Retrieved from: https://www.env.nm.gov/aqb/asbestos/
  10. Environmental Working Group - List of 208 Cities That Received Asbestos Shipment. (2009). Retrieved from: http://www.ewg.org/
  11. McLemore, V.T. Asbestos Minerals in New Mexico. New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. Retrieved from: http://geoinfo.nmt.edu/staff/mclemore/documents/asbestos_nm.pdf
  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2015, January). Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2013 on CDC WONDER Online Database. Retrieved from http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html

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