Sick since January, Hedrick said doctors couldn’t figure out what was causing him chest pains, difficulty breathing and trouble talking.
He now says his illness is the result of asbestos, a substance used in construction for its flame-retardant properties that can cause cancer and other respiratory problems if particles are inhaled.
Hedrick said asbestos is present in the building he formerly rented and might have been stirred up after a burglary attempt in 2002, when burglars tried to get into his gun shop by cutting through a portion of the roof.
“It started out as chest pains,” he said. “They did a ton of tests and never came out with anything.”
When his home and business were tested, he said, no mold was found, and the mystery of his illness continued.
Hedrick said he discovered the asbestos problem when he hired Sierra Environmental Testing and Consulting in Woodbridge to test the building he had been leasing for more than a decade.
“They found airborne asbestos in my (rented) building,” Hedrick said.
According to Sierra’s June 8 report, an inspection was conducted inside the building, and three samples of building materials were collected to be tested for asbestos. Of the three samples taken, asbestos was reportedly found in the wallboard and joint taping compound and ceiling tile texture.
Hedrick said the inspectors told him he had been breathing asbestos since January 2002, when he says the ceiling was damaged by a water leak where the burglars reportedly tried to break in.
He said doctors recently found nodules in his lungs but have yet to determine if they are cancerous or if they could have been caused by breathing asbestos.
“Once I found out, doctors told me, ‘You’ve got to get out (of the building),’” Hedrick said. “It’s really sad. Nothing they can do if it is asbestos
Hedrick said he informed the landlord about the water leak in 2002, and the landlord, whose name Hedrick declined to disclose, told him it would be fixed.
But according to Hedrick, the repair was never properly made.
Ana Contreras, the leader of Tracy’s code enforcement team, said she considered posting an order that all people stay out of the building, which she said is owned by George Papadakis, who lives in Washington.
But Contreras learned from the Sierra consultant who prepared the report that the structure was never tested for airborne asbestos. She added that it’s not uncommon to find asbestos-laden materials in older buildings, noting that the substance is harmful only if it is disturbed and becomes airborne.
Contreras said that because the building had been closed since Hedrick left, the city did not have to take action unless Papadakis wanted to rent it to a new tenant.
“We don’t have any evidence that there is a risk (to the public) based on the report,” she said. “At this point, the tenant has vacated the building, and it’s secure. Before it can be occupied, we have to have a report from an environmental testing firm to verify if any asbestos is airborne. He can’t occupy it until we have that report.”
If airborne asbestos were discovered, Contreras said, it would have to be removed by a company that specializes in asbestos removal to be sure that the particles were contained. The building would have to be re-inspected and the asbestos removal verified before the city would allow occupation.
She said city officials have also tried to reach the owners of Tracy Embroidery, which occupies a space at the back of the building, though she said there was no evidence that the back unit is at risk.
According to city officials, Tracy Embroidery relinquished its business license in 2010, and no one returned calls made to the number posted on the side of the building.