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Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure in California


Prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to serious health problems including pleural mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer. If you have lived and worked in California for significant amount of time, there is a chance that you were exposed to asbestos at home or in the workplace. For your convenience, we have compiled information about asbestos and mesothelioma in the state of California.

Below you will find recent statistics about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure in California. We have also included descriptions of industries and lists of cities, towns and specific job sites in California where asbestos exposure has occurred. Local California mesothelioma doctors and treatment centers are also listed. Finally we include recent news articles about asbestos and mesothelioma in California.

California Mesothelioma and Asbestos Statistics

From 1999-2015, 4,295 California residents died from mesothelioma, making California the state with the highest number of mesothelioma deaths

Asbestos Use in California Work Environments

In addition to all of the naturally occurring asbestos in California, the deadly material has been used in jobsites all over the state.


As the state with the third longest coastline in the country, California has 20 major shipyards, where asbestos was used as insulation in ship construction and repair. One of these is the San Diego Naval Base, which is the primary port for the entire Pacific Fleet of the U.S. Navy.

Oil Industry:

According to California Energy Commission, there are 30 offshore oil platforms, 21 oil refineries, and nearly 50 refined oil product terminals within the state, though some of these may longer be operational. Many of these oil industry jobsites have been in operation since the 1950s or earlier, with asbestos used heavily throughout the oil drilling and delivery process.

Power Plants:

Given the size of the state, California has a large number of power plants, most fueled by gas – but there are also several coal, hydroelectric, and nuclear plants, as well as power generation facilities with newer technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. Power plants like the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station have traditionally used blue crocidolite asbestos to insulate from heat and electricity created by the power generation process.


More than 240 asbestos deposits have been identified in California, including some of the largest known asbestos sites in the world. A large number of these, like the John D. Hoff Mine and the Atlas Asbestos Company, were in operation for decades. In addition, asbestos has been found in other California mines for natural resources like coal, talc, and even precious metals such as gold and copper.

California Shipyards and Superfund Sites

Public, private, and military shipyards have populated the long shores of California since it first became a state. Most of these California shipyards are situated near the populated areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego.

Bethlehem Steel Shipyard (San Francisco)

One of the oldest shipyards in the state, the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard was founded in 1849 as the Union Brass and Iron Works. Between the two World Wars, the yard became a major warship construction site on the West Coast, eventually shifting to ship repair after World War II. Due to the high number of ships built and repaired at the facility, many workers over the years were exposed to asbestos.

Naval Base San Diego (North Island Shipyard)

Initially established in 1910, this shipyard came under the control of the U.S. Navy during World War I, eventually going on to become the main port for aircraft carriers in the Pacific Fleet. Given the large size of the military vessels cared for at the facility, in addition to the many aircraft housed on them, workers at the naval shipyard in San Diego were exposed to asbestos for decades. The naval base eventually grew to become one of the largest bases operated by the U.S. Navy, and it is still in operation today.

Long Beach Naval Shipyard (Terminal Island)

Having opened in 1940, the Long Beach Naval Shipyard on Terminal Island, near Los Angeles, remained in operation for 57 years. Long Beach was one of the subjects of an October 1979 Government Accountability Office report that stated, “Dust samples taken by the industrial hygienist aboard two ships contained asbestos dust, indicating that required cleanup had not been done properly.” Given the large amount of asbestos used in naval ships during the shipyard’s operational period, many individuals were exposed while working on the vessels docked there.

San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard (Mare Island and Hunter’s Point)

The U.S. Navy’s shipyard in San Francisco was created when two other shipyards – the Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard and the Mare Island Naval Shipyard – combined operations in 1965. Although combined operations ceased in 1970, Hunter’s Point continued for another four years, while Mare Island remained a working naval base through 1996. Both sites used asbestos heavily throughout their separate and combined operating periods, especially in the overhauling of ships, which often required asbestos-containing materials such as insulation, gaskets, and other items. Furthermore, a landfill maintained on Mare Island from 1940 to 1989 became a dumping ground for many dangerous toxins, including asbestos.

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California Cities with Asbestos Problems

Provided below is a list of cities in the state of California where asbestos use in the workplace is known to have occurred. Click on a city below to see more detailed information about the specific job sites where asbestos exposure occurred.

Asbestos Exposure at Smaller California Sites

Workplace asbestos exposure is also a concern if one looks beyond the major cities and towns in California. Select a town below to see the list of its job sites known to have exposed workers to asbestos. Asbestos exposure at any one of the job sites revealed could have placed a worker at risk to develop mesothelioma cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos-Related News in California

Researchers Explore Stem Cells for Personalized Cancer Vaccines

Stanford, California - June 26, 2018

A recent study from Stanford University tested the use of inactivated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSs) for personalized cancer vaccines that could treat and even potentially prevent cancer. The study is still in the early phases and has only been implemented in mice modules, but shows promise for the potential to vaccinate patients against various types of cancer, including mesothelioma, melanoma, and breast cancer.

New Documentary Shines Light on Asbestos and Mesothelioma

San Luis Obispo, California - March 13, 2018

Cousins Conor Lewis and Zack Johnson are premiering their documentary, Dirty Laundry, at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival this week. The 75-minute film is a result of the cousins’ 4,800 mile cross country cycling trip to better understand their grandmother’s death as a result of pleural mesothelioma.

Find Mesothelioma Doctors, Lawyers and Asbestos Exposure Sites Near You

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari

Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli

Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their Families

Jennifer R. Lucarelli

Geological Research, Analyses and Services Programs. "Naturally Occurring Asbestos Locations in the Contiguous U.S. and Alaska." Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 25 May 2007. (accessed 23 August 2010).

Patterson, Randall. "Not In Their Back Yard." Mother Jones, May/June 2007.

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