ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Federal contractors dressed in protective suits used heavy equipment Wednesday to scrape up asbestos-contaminated soil at two Albuquerque sites where fireproof insulation was manufactured for decades.
Others are raising questions about the health of former employees at those plants and the whereabouts of some 68,000 tons of asbestos-tainted vermiculite imported to New Mexico from 1967 to 1988 for use as home insulation.
The product, sold under brand names that include Zonalite and Texas Vermiculite, was widely used in New Mexico to insulate walls and attics, said Charles Perea, who heads a New Mexico foundation dedicated to increasing public awareness of the health risks of asbestos.
“It was commonly used in construction,” said Perea, founder of the Johnny O. Perea Foundation. The product resembles tiny chips of gray or brown bark or ash cinders, he said. “I can peek into an attic with a flashlight and recognize it.”