California’s Sierra Trails May be Asbestos-Ridden

Many of California’s Sierra trails are ridden with toxic materials. The gold mines have left a significant mark on the foothills–leaving behind a legacy of contamination.

The Sierra Fund tested the soil of several trails near mine mouths, and discovered high levels of arsenic, lead and asbestos.

The asbestos poses a serious health risk to those who come in contact with the trails. For dust stirred up by hikers, bikers and horseback riders may be inhaled. When airborne asbestos particles are inhaled, those exposed are put at risk for contracting a variety of asbestos related diseases. Mesothelioma, however, is the most aggressive form to arise from asbestos exposure.

Due to the diseases’ dormant nature, mesothelioma doctors struggle to diagnose patients who fail to show symptoms for several decades. There is no mesothelioma cure.

Chief executive of the Sierra Fund, Elizabeth Martin, noted that the Gold Rush, "not only brought wealth and hundreds of thousands of people to California, it also brought mining machines that ripped down sides of mountains and tunneled thousands of feet into rock, leaving behind arsenic and lead.”

The Sierra Fund has also noted that 47,000 abandoned mines pose threats to public safety, especially for those who spend time in the foothills, according to the San Francisco Gate.

"A lot of people are aware that their kids can fall into a hole at an old mine. But they don’t know that asbestos fibers can lodge into their lungs or lead can be absorbed into their skin," said Martin.

Additional testing will be completed by the group in highly trafficked trails.

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