4 Min Read
Last Updated: 09/29/2023
Fact Checked

Written by Matt Mauney | Edited By Walter Pacheco

Quick Facts About Asbestos in New Mexico
  • grey clipboard with plus sign icon
    Ranking in Deaths:
    42nd
  • grey lungs icon
    Mesothelioma Deaths:
    283
  • silhouette of a head with three dots
    Asbestosis Deaths:
    N/A
  • grey triangle warning sign icon next to graph
    Total Deaths:
    283

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. The state has established treatment centers that focus on cancers such as mesothelioma to combat such a health risk.

Asbestos exposure has affected workers and residents in New Mexico, causing related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. In January 2020, the attorney general of New Mexico filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson claiming the company misled consumers, especially children and Black and Hispanic women, about the safety of its talc products, which were found to be contaminated with asbestos.

For patients who have developed cancers as a result of asbestos exposure, legal options can help patients receive financial assistance for medical costs.

Occupations and Environmental Areas at Risk in New Mexico

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.

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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. 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. 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

Asbestos may be contained in the products or buildings they are constantly around. When these materials are damaged, fibers that become airborne may pose a serious threat to the employees when exposed repeatedly over time. Becoming informed about sources of exposure is recommended for workers.

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