California officials on Friday said they will not conduct a statewide asbestos testing program for the first time in three decades because of the state’s poor asbestos testing record.
California’s Public Health Department issued the ruling in a request for a voluntary asbestos testing system for the state, which had conducted asbestos testing for more than 100 years.
“There is a strong risk that the public health and safety will be compromised by testing results from this program that have not been adequately evaluated and verified,” the state Department of Public Health said in a letter to the public safety commission.
The state also noted that it has yet to conduct a formal test on its own soil samples.
“The public health risks associated with this testing program are well documented and have been discussed in the California Public Health Commission,” the letter said.
The PHL said it will ask the commission to delay the implementation of the testing program until the state can meet its federal safety requirements.
The department said it would also continue to monitor the health and environmental conditions at its four testing sites.
“The California Department of Health and Human Services and the California Air Resources Board will continue to work with the public and the public service to identify and improve the testing programs,” said spokeswoman Kim Wahl.
The letter came amid a growing movement to overhaul the state asbestos testing programs.
In July, a bipartisan group of legislators sent a letter urging the state to do away with its asbestos testing mandate.
A group of other groups, including the Sierra Club and the New York-based nonprofit Physicians for Social Responsibility, are pushing to move to a statewide test program.
“We want to make sure that if you are going to do a statewide program, you need to make it affordable,” said Dr. Jay D. Smith, executive director of Physicians for Society.
“And the cost of doing that is a lot of money.”
California has had the largest number of asbestos deaths in the country, at more than 10,000.
The state’s average annual number of fatalities is about 20,000 annually.
The agency says that the average amount of asbestos testing done each year is about $300.