New Mexico ranks 41st out of 51 states in the United States for total deaths related to asbestos exposure. Approximately 60 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
Asbestos Exposure in New Mexico
The risk of exposure to asbestos varies by state and county. Different states have specific regulations on how the mineral may be used, and therefore have different levels of risk. New Mexico has several job sites where asbestos was used in construction, as well as several environmental sites where there are asbestos deposits.
There are certain areas in New Mexico where asbestos is more likely to be found than others. Higher-risk places include natural deposits, a processing site in Albuquerque, and other job sites around the state. Areas include:
Asbestos minerals have been found in limestone and a variety of other mineral deposits around New Mexico. However, unless disturbed, it’s unlikely people would inhale or ingest asbestos fibers. Those who are at high risk include miners, construction workers and demolition crews. Asbestos can also be found in small amounts around various geologic terranes in the southern part of the state, but the level is low and less of a health risk.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can lead to various dangerous lung conditions, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, so it is now notorious as a serious health and safety hazard.
Archaeological studies have found evidence of asbestos being used as far back as the Stone Age to strengthen ceramic pots, but large-scale mining began at the end of the 19th century when manufacturers and builders began using asbestos for its desirable physical properties. Asbestos is an excellent insulator and is highly fire-resistant, so for much of the 20th century it was very commonly used across the world as a building material, until its adverse effects on human health were more widely acknowledged in the 1970s.
The use of asbestos for construction and fireproofing has been made illegal in many countries. Despite this, at least 100,000 people are thought to die each year from diseases related to asbestos exposure. In part, this is because many older buildings still contain asbestos; in addition, the consequences of exposure can take decades to arise.
Vermiculite in New Mexico
Vermiculite is another mineral that develops in underground geologic formations all over the world. One of the largest deposits of vermiculite is located in Libby, Montana, where both vermiculite and asbestos minerals can be found together. The vermiculite ore once processed from the mine held up to 26 percent asbestos before it was concentrated and milled in Libby, then shipped across the country. Shipments contained concentrations of asbestos ranging from 0.3 percent to 7 percent between 1920 to 1990. In 1990, the mine was closed, but not before it had supplied vermiculite to several hundred sites in the United States.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted extensive research and created a database from shipping invoices at a facility in New Mexico. The agency determined that 231 tons of vermiculite ore from the Libby mine was shipped to a chemical conglomerate known as W.R. Grace in New Mexico between September 1983 and May 1988. These shipments were contaminated with asbestos, exposing workers and nearby residents to the toxic minerals.
After this discovery, W.R. Grace told the EPA it would source vermiculite from a new facility in South Carolina. After close observation of this new facility, the EPA determined it was clean and that no further action would be needed.
Military Bases and Work Sites
The U.S. military used the carcinogen as insulation, specifically in ships and shipyards, aircraft, military vehicles, and military bases. As a result, veterans have a higher risk of asbestos exposure, especially those who served in Navy and spent time in shipyards.
There isn’t a Marine or Navy base in the state, but there are three Air Force bases:
- Cannon Air Force Base in Curry, NM
- Holloman Air Force Base in Otero, NM
- Kirtland Air Force Base in Bernalillo, NM
There are also two Army bases in the state:
- White Sands Missile Range Army Base in Otero, NM
- Los Alamos Demolition Army Base in North Central, NM
Civilian Job Sites
Asbestos has been used at many other job sites outside of the military. These locations include mining sites, oil refineries, power plants and railroads. Some of the job sites in New Mexico that have confirmed the presence of asbestos at some point include:
|6200 NORTHLAND N.E. SHOWHOUSE||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|AC HOUSTON LUMBER CO||GALLUP, NM|
|4 CORNERS POWERHOUSE||FARMINGTON, NM|
|CHINO MINES COMPANY||HURLEY, NM|
|ALBUQUERQUE GAS & ELECTRIC||BERNALILLO, NM|
|BUILDERS MATERIALS INC||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|BATES LUMBER CO||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|BURN CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC.||LAS CRUCES, NM|
|BUILDERS MATERIALS, INCORPORATED||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|ACF/GE PLANT||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|CHACO COMPRESSOR STATION||FARMINGTON, NM|
|CITY OF LAS CRUCES GAS DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM||LAS CRUCES, NM|
|AQUA FRIA SCHOOL||SANTA FE, NM|
|AMERICAN GYPSUM CO.||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|ALBUQUERQUE CONVENTION CENTER||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|CLIMAX CHEMICAL||MONUMENT, NM|
|ARIZONA PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY – FOUR CORNERS||FRUITLAND, NM|
|CINEZA REFINERY||GALLUP, NM|
|BREWER BUILDERS||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|CHINO MINES POWER PLANT||HURLEY, NM|
|CITY OF BERNALILLO – WASTEWATER PLANT||BERNALILLO, NM|
|CLOWE AND COWAN INC||ROSWELL, NM|
|HOMESTAKE MINING & UNITED NUCLEAR CORPORATION||GRANTS, NM|
|HOLMAN AFB||HOLMAN, NM|
|HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE||ALAMOGORDO, NM|
|EPPSCO INC||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|DUVAL SULFUR & POTASH||CARLSBAD, NM|
|DESERT INDUSTRIES||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|FORT WINGATE PLANT||GALLUP, NM|
|EL PASO NATURAL GAS CO||FARMINGTON, NM|
|COOPER MILL||TYRONE, NM|
|COMMUNITY PUBLIC SERVICE||LORDSBURG, NM|
|FARMERS COMPRESS COMPANY||LAS CRUCES, NM|
|ELDORADO HIGH SCHOOL||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|GEO. S. THOMPSON CO.||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|HOLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE||ALAMAGORDO, NM|
|H.B. ZACHRY COMPANY||HOBBS, NM|
|GLENN RESIDENCE, 1938 HANE||SANTA FE, NM|
|FOUR CORNERS POWER PLANT||FRUITLAND, NM|
|FOUR CORNERS POWERHOUSE||FARMINGTON, NM|
|COLUMBIA ASBESTOS COMPANY||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|HAINES SEWING PLANT||LAS CRUCES, NM|
|IDEAL CEMENT CO.||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|INTERNATIONAL MIN. & CHEMICAL CORPORATION||CARLSBAD, NM|
|LAS VEGAS – WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT||LAS VEGAS, NM|
|J. KORBER & COMPANY||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|HOUSTON LUMBER COMPANY||CLOVIS, NM|
|KINNEY BRICK COMPANY||KINNEY, NM|
|KERR-MAC POTASH CO||CARLSBAD, NM|
|KERR MCGEE POTASH MINE||CARLSBAD, NM|
|LEA COUNTY ELECTRIC COO||LOVINGTON, NM|
|KIRKLAND AIR FORCE BASE||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|LOS ALAMOS ATOMIC TESTING SITE||LOS ALAMOS, NM|
|INTERNATIONAL MINERALS AND CHEMICAL CORPORATION||CARLSBAD, NM|
|HUDSON ENGINEERING CORPORATION||GALLUP, NM|
|LEXCO CO||MORIARTY, NM|
|KIRTLAND AFB, SANDIA BASE||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|LEA COUNTY CO-OP||LOVINGTON, NM|
|KINNEY BRICK CO||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|LOCO HILLS PRESSURE MAINTENANCE COMPANY||ARTESIS, NM|
|KENT NOWLIN CONSTRUCTION COMPANY||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|MADDOX POWER PLANT||HOBBS, NM|
|NEW MEXICO PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY, SAN JUAN UNIT #2||LA MESA, NM|
|NEW MEXICO PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY – SAN JUAN UNIT #2||LA MESA, NM|
|NEVADA CONSOLIDATED COPPER CORPORATION (A/K/A KENNECOTT COPPER)||HURLEY, NM|
|NATIONAL MINE||CARLSBAD, NM|
|NATIONAL POTASH CO||CARLSBAD, NM|
|NEW MEXICO METALS CORP||LOS LUNAS, NM|
|NAVAJO REFINING||ARTESIA, NM|
|NEW MEXICO ELECTRIC SERVICE CO – MADDOX PLANT||HOBBS, NM|
|NEW MEXICO POWER COMPANY||DAWSON, NM|
|NALLEYS INC||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|MATHIS AND MATHIS MINING AND||SILVER CITY, NM|
|MONTERREY SCHOOL||ROSWELL, NM|
|MOLYBDENUM CORPORATION OF AMERICA||QUESTA, NM|
|LOS ALAMOS LABS||LOS ALAMOS, NM|
|LOS ALAMOS LABORATORIES||LOS ALAMOS, NM|
|NEW MEXICO HIGHLANDS UNIVERSITY||LAS VEGAS, NM|
|LOS ALAMOS POWER PLANT||LOS ALAMOS, NM|
|NALLAYS INC||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|MUNICIPAL LIGHT PLANT FARMINGTON||FARMINGTON, NM|
|RECKLAW RESIDENCE, RIO RANCHO ESTATES||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|PUBLIC SERV CO NM||WATERFLOW, NM|
|PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT CORP||FARMINGTON, NM|
|RUBIS METAL INC||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|NEW MEXICO STATE UNIVERSITY||LAS CRUCES, NM|
|RESIDENCE, 12400 MORROW N.E.||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|NEW MEXICO PUMP & EQUIPMENT||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|POTASH COMPANY OF AMERICA||CARLSBAD, NM|
|PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY OF NEW MEXICO||FRUITLAND, NM|
|REEVES STATION||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|ROSWELL BRACKISH WATER TREATMENT FACILITY||ROSWELL, NM|
|REEVES POWER PLANT||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|SAN JUAN POWER PLANT||FARMINGTON, NM|
|NEW MEXICO STATE PENITENTIARY||SANTA FE, NM|
|PECOS VALLEY COMPRESS||ROSWELL, NM|
|RUBIS METALS INC||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|POTASH CO OF AMERICA||CARLSBAD, NM|
|PLATEAU REFINERY||FARMINGTON, NM|
|PAN AMERICAN PETROLEUM CO.||ARTESIA, NM|
|RED SEAL INC||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|U.S. POTASH COMPANY||LOVING, NM|
|TRI-STATE INSULATION||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|UNITED NUCLEAR CORP HOMES||GRANTS, NM|
|SOUTHERN UNION GAS PLANT||BLOOMFIELD, NM|
|SINCLAIR OIL & GAS COMPANY||TATUM, NM|
|STEARN ROGERS, INC.||WATERFLOW, NM|
|SANTE FE HOSPITAL||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|SOUTHWEST POTASH CORP||CARLSBAD, NM|
|SOUTHWESTERN PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY||ROSWELL, NM|
|SANTA FE RAILROAD FACILITY||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|SOUTHWEST POTASH||CARLSBAD, NM|
|SOUTHWESTERN PUBLIC SERVICE CO||CLOVIS, NM|
|SOHIO NATURAL RESOURCE||SEBUYETA, NM|
|SOUTHWESTERN PUBLIC SERVICE – CUNNINGHAM STATION||HOBBS, NM|
|TOWN OF CLOVIS – WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT||CLOVIS, NM|
|SOUTHERN PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY||CLOVIS, NM|
|UNITED NUCLEAR CORPORATION||GRANTS, NM|
|SOUTHERNWESTERN PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY||CARLSBAD, NM|
|TOWN OF FARMINGTON||FARMINGTON, NM|
|SANDIA LABS||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE||WHITE SANDS, NM|
|UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO||ALBUQUERQUE, NM|
|US POTASH||CARLSBAD, NM|
|WARREN PETROLEUM CORPORATION||HOBBS, NM|
|WALKER AIR FORCE BASE||ROSWELL, NM|
|WARREN PETROLEUM CO.||MONUMENT, NM|
|ZIA CORPORATION||LOS ALAMOS, NM|
Avoiding Exposure in New Mexico
It’s possible to avoid asbestos exposure if you take certain precautions. Having an awareness of where asbestos is located can make it much easier to avoid. A few states have banned the mineral outright, making it less common to find, but it’s still important to be vigilant.
The easiest way to prevent asbestos exposure is to avoid the mineral when it is broken up or crumbled. If a crew is demolishing, building, or renovating a building that contains asbestos, there’s a higher chance the fibers could be airborne, exposing people in the area.
US Government Regulatory Actions Against Asbestos
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (or the “EPA”) has taken several steps to ban asbestos:
- In 1973, the EPA banned spray-applied surfacing asbestos-containing material for fireproofing/insulating purposes. See National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) at 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart M.
- In 1975, the EPA banned installation of asbestos pipe insulation and asbestos block insulation on facility components, such as boilers and hot water tanks, if the materials are either pre-formed (molded) and friable or wet-applied and friable after drying. See National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) at 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart M.
- In 1977, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the use of asbestos in artificial fireplace embers and wall patching compounds. (See 16 CFR Part 1305 and 16 CFR 1304).
- In 1978, the EPA banned spray-applied surfacing materials for purposes not already banned. See National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) at 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart M.
- In 1989, the EPA attempted to ban most asbestos-containing products by issuing a final rule under Section 6 of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). However, most of the original ban on the manufacture, importation, processing, or distribution in commerce for the majority of the asbestos-containing products originally covered in the 1989 final rule was overturned in 1991 by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result, the 1989 asbestos regulation only bans new uses of asbestos in products that would be initiated for the first time after 1989 and bans 5 other specific product types. See 40 CFR 763 Subpart I. Learn more about the 1989 asbestos ban and phase-out.
- In 1990, the EPA prohibited spray-on application of materials containing more than 1% asbestos to buildings, structures, pipes, and conduits unless certain conditions specified. See National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) at 40 CFR 61, Subpart M are met.
- In 2019, the EPA issued a final rule to ensure that discontinued asbestos products cannot be reintroduced into commerce without the Agency evaluating them and putting in place any necessary restrictions or prohibiting use. Read the final rule.
- In April 2022, the EPA took action to protect people from asbestos exposure by releasing a proposed rule to prohibit ongoing uses of the only known form of asbestos currently imported into the United States. This proposed rule was the first-ever risk management rule issued under the new process for evaluating and addressing the safety of existing chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that was enacted in 2016.
New Mexico’s Regulation of Asbestos
The Air Quality Bureau (AQB) in New Mexico aims to protect New Mexico’s residents by addressing issues regarding air quality, including asbestos. One goal is to protect the environment and the public by eliminating the release of asbestos fibers into the air. The agency’s regulations focus on contractors, facility managers, and owners, requiring they abide by strict regulations or be liable if they don’t.
New Mexico adopted the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) to give contractors and facility owners a way to minimize asbestos risk. One way is by requiring notices for renovation and demolition projects only when they are up to standard.
If you reside in New Mexico and have any questions or concerns, contact the AQB bureau’s Asbestos Hotline at 1-800-224-7009, or send an email to email@example.com.
Prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to cancer and other illnesses that develop over time. Generally, older adults and seniors are the primary group affected since there’s usually a significant latency period. Asbestos-related conditions include:
Mesothelioma—a type of cancer in the tissue around the lung, abdominal, or heart cavities
Lung cancer – Type of cancer in the lungs
Asbestosis—scarring of the lung tissue
Pleural Plaques – A hardening around the lungs and diaphragm
If you believe you’ve been exposed to asbestos, it’s recommended that you see a doctor to receive an evaluation and discuss potential treatment.
Treatment Centers Near New Mexico
Several cancer treatment centers are located in and around New Mexico for patients who have symptoms or concerns about asbestos exposure or related illnesses. Treatment centers include:
University of New Mexico Cancer Research and Treatment Center
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Main: (505) 272-4946
In New Mexico: 1-800-432-6806
New Mexico Cancer Center (Location 1)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Main: (505) 842-8171
Appointments and Office: (505) 842-8171
New Mexico Cancer Center (Location 2)
Gallup, New Mexico
Main: (505) 842-8171
Appointments and Office: (505) 726-2400
New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance (For clinical trials and resources)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Main: (505) 925-0368
University of Arizona Cancer Center
Administration: (520) 626-2548
Patient Care / Appointments – Tucson: 1-800-524-5928; (520) 694-2873 (694-CURE)
University of Colorado Cancer Center
Adult Cancer Care: (720) 848-0300
Pediatric Cancer Care: (720) 777-6688
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Main: (713) 792-6161
Toll Free: 1-877-632-6789 (1-877-MDA-6789)
Huntsman Cancer Institute
Salt Lake City, Utah
Local: (801) 585-0303
HCI Main: 1-877-585-0303
If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos on the job and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer or other asbestos-related diseases, you could be entitled to legal compensation. The DuBose Law Firm has decades of experience fighting victims of mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis victims. Call 877-857-2914 today for a free case evaluation.