story by Mike Volkin / Published July 10, 2005

You may have heard recent reports of naturally-occurring asbestos found in the Folsom hills… what could potentially be a valid health scare. Is the asbestos concern in this area valid, or has it turned into a media frenzy as a ploy to minimize growth? As a former environmental consultant and current author and Realtor®, I feel more than compelled to answer this question.

Let me start by answering the basic question; what exactly is asbestos? Asbestos is the name of a group of highly fibrous minerals with separable, long, and thin fibers (Figure 1). That doesn’t sound so bad, why all the fuss over some fibers? Well, asbestos may be thin, but they are very durable. So durable in fact that they find their way into lung tissue and remain there for a long time. When asbestos infects the lung tissue it can cause asbestosis, mesothelioma, and cancer.

Certainly from the previous description you don’t want asbestos anywhere near your lungs. According to the Air Quality Management District, asbestos fibers occur naturally in the soil in 44 of California’s 58 counties; and Sacramento County is on the list. So, where are all these asbestos fibers hiding? Asbestos is present in serpentine and ultramafic rock. Specifically in Folsom, asbestos was first discovered during soil tests at the proposed Lago Vista High School site in the Empire Ranch area. Of course, upon the discovery of asbestos in Folsom, the city and Elliot Homes took the appropriate measures to address the problem.

This problem leaves the average home buyer and seller confused. What are my consequences, relating to asbestos, if I buy a home or sell a house in Folsom? Well, for starters, let me state that the asbestos levels found so far do not constitute an imminent health threat. However, naturally occurring asbestos has been confirmed, so minimizing the release of fibers should be of paramount importance. So, what can you as a resident of Folsom do to minimize the release of such fibers? For starters, don’t drive, jog, or use heavy equipment on unpaved roads containing serpentine rock. Driving on unpaved roads lifts the asbestos fibers out of the ground which increases the chance of the fibers finding their way to your lungs. Also, be sure to wipe your shoes off outside, before coming indoors. As a supplement to this practice, keep your floors mopped often. Since children often play outside and get dirty, it is especially important to tell them to take off their shoes prior to entering your house and wash their hands if they are dirty. When digging in your yard, keep an eye out for rocks such as the rock featured in this article.

All of this information is not meant to scare the average homeowner in Folsom. The scientists and engineers in the area are working on gathering enough information to draw a logical conclusion, as for now, there are many questions unanswered. However, as a former environmental consultant and current Realtor®, I can assure you the necessary steps are being made to protect human health and the environment. Feel free to e-mail me any questions or concerns regarding this topic.

Mike Volkin