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Between 1999 and 2013 more than 2,000 people in Arizona died from an asbestos-related disease, most often mesothelioma. This puts Arizona approximately in the middle when states are ranked by numbers of asbestos deaths. Mining has been a major source of asbestos exposure here because there are many natural resources and asbestos deposits in the state.
Miners and those living near mines are not the only ones put at risk, though. Many industrial job sites and military bases in Arizona are known to have contained asbestos and to have potentially put workers at risk of exposure. If you live in Arizona and have suffered because of an asbestos-related disease, make sure you know the laws and work with an experienced Arizona mesothelioma lawyer to get justice.
Naturally Occurring Asbestos in Arizona
Arizona is known to have more than 100 natural deposits of asbestos, many of which are found in Pinal and Gila counties in the central and eastern region of the state. Most of these are in the Salt River District. This is the most concentrated area of asbestos, but there are also many more scattered and smaller deposits throughout the state. Arizona has a history of mining asbestos specifically, but it also has multiple mines for other resources that happen to contain asbestos as well. Both types of mines can be harmful to workers and people who live in the area when fibers of asbestos are disturbed and contaminate air, soil, or water.
Mining and Asbestos
Arizona has a rich history of mining as a major industry. It continues to be an important industry and source of economic growth in the state. Many of the instances of asbestos-related illnesses and deaths recorded for Arizona are the result of workers in mines being exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos was first discovered in the state in 1872, but it was not mined heavily until 1912 when the large Salt River deposit was found. This extensive asbestos mining went on for decades until the federal regulations limiting asbestos use were put in place in the 1970s. By then, thousands of people had already been exposed and harmed.
Vermiculite Mining and Processing
Asbestos mining is not the only source of asbestos exposure in Arizona. Other mines for different types of minerals resources can expose workers to asbestos because they are mixed with smaller asbestos deposits. When mining for another mineral, it is not uncommon to have asbestos contaminating the mine. Vermiculite is one mineral that is often found intertwined with asbestos deposits or to have small amounts of contaminating asbestos in it. Vermiculite is used in many applications, like insulation and plant growing material, because it is lightweight and fire-resistant.
Several vermiculite processing facilities have operated in Arizona and have put workers at risk of exposure to asbestos found in the mineral. One example is Ari-Zonolite, a processing plant in Glendale, Arizona. The vermiculite processed there came from Libby, Montana, a site now known to have been severely contaminated with asbestos.
Ari-Zonolite operated between 1951 and 1964 and even after the company left, others operated out of the same contaminated facilities. It was only in 2011 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that soil, buildings, and air at the site were contaminated and that thousands of workers and nearby residents were likely exposed to asbestos over the years.
Sites Known to Have Asbestos
Mines and vermiculite processing plants make up the majority of asbestos exposure in Arizona, but these are not the only sites or workplaces that have put people at risk of developing mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis. Work sites known to have contained asbestos and that may have exposed workers include:
- Williams Air Force Base, Mesa
- Arizona Copper Company Ltd. Mine, Clifton
- Navajo Generating Station, Cochise
- Luke Air Force Base, Glendale
- San Manuel Copper Mine, San Manuel
- Apache Generating Station, Cochise
- Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, Tonopah
- Childs-Irving Hydroelectric Facilities, Fossil Creek
- Cholla Power Plant, Joseph City
Arizona Asbestos Laws
Federal regulations set by the EPA are used in Arizona to cover many of the issues associated with asbestos use, contamination, air pollution, and abatement. Occupational issues are managed through the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, but it does not have any authority over mining sites. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality regulates how buildings are renovated or demolished when asbestos is an issue. Pima, Pinal, and Maricopa Counties have additional asbestos laws and regulations.
New Law Limits Arizona Asbestos Litigation
In 2015 Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona signed a bill into law that put the brakes on asbestos lawsuits in the. The law is supposed to increase transparency, improve fairness, and reduce double-dipping into funds set aside for asbestos victims. The law requires anyone filing an asbestos-related personal injury lawsuit to sign a sworn statement of every claim they have or plan to make related to asbestos. The law also allows companies being sued to get delays in the proceedings.
According to critics of the law—those who advocate for mesothelioma victims—believe that the law only acts to put more hurdles in the paths of these people who have been irreparably harmed by asbestos exposure. They also say that there were already laws in place to prevent victims from double dipping and that this new law will only delay settlements for victims who genuinely deserve compensation and whose time left alive is limited.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations on asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits is important for people to understand so they do not miss out on the window of opportunity for seeking settlements. This is the law that gives a time frame after which a victim cannot file a lawsuit. In Arizona the statute of limitations is two years after the diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease. It is also two years after a death for any wrongful death lawsuits related to asbestos.
Working with an Arizona Mesothelioma Lawyer
An Arizona mesothelioma lawyer can help you navigate the state laws if you or someone you love is suffering from mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer related to asbestos exposure. Former mine workers, industrial workers, and people who lived around these facilities are at risk of getting sick and they have a right to sue the companies that failed to prevent exposure and illness. With an experienced lawyer on your side, you can avoid missing deadlines, file the right paperwork and make the most convincing case for winning a settlement.
Page Written by Rod De Llano, Esquire
Rod De Llano was born and raised in Laredo, Texas. He graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Economics, and earned a law degree from the University of Texas. After working for an international law firm for several years, Rod formed a law firm dedicated to representing persons injured by exposure to asbestos products. For over 20 years, Rod has fought for persons diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. His clients have recovered over $1 billion over the years.
- http://www.azgs.az.gov/Mineral Scans/Asbestos in AZ 04.pdf