ORANGE (CBS) — Ten current and former Orange County social workers say the Social Services building they work in has caused a variety of serious health problems, like bone cancer, miscarriages and birth defects.
Retired social worker Deborah Martin helped parents in Orange County adopt children for 14 years. She and her coworkers worked in the basement of the agency’s Eckhoff Main Office in Orange, in an area called the Red Room.
Martin herself suffered a miscarriage a decade ago and is now diagnosed with pernicious anemia. Her ribs have also begun breaking for no reason.
“This is more than coincidental, that there’s only six people that sat in that room and none of us have had healthy pregnancies,” Martin said. “None of us have good health now.”
Before the county acquired the building in 1993, it was owned by National Oil Well Varco, a manufacturer of oil drilling equipment.
The plaintiffs’ attorney says Varco’s heat treating plant, which used known cancer-causing hazardous chemicals, was located where the Red Room now stands.
Martin claims the county only tested the air and not the soil below the building before occupying it.
“Toxins don’t seep into the ground and go away. They stay in the ground and cause vapor intrusion,” Martin said. “When they lifted the carpet under our desks, there were cracks one-foot wide under desks…”
Dr. Michael Riley, the director of the agency, would not specify what tests the county conducted on the building, but that they have complied with all rules.
“If we felt our staff, my staff was in any way in danger, we would do anything and everything possible to make sure they would be moved,” Riley said.