A recent National Institute of Health grant will enable the University of Pennsylvania to create an educational program to assist those exposed to asbestos. The aid will focus mainly on residents of Ambler, a suburb of Philadelphia, where asbestos was manufactured beginning in the 1890s. Amosite asbestos was manufactured and dumped in the area until the early 1980s. The original facility was owned by Keasbey and Mattison Company (K&M), proceeded by Nicolet Industries, which dumped asbestos sludge into nearby basins via a pipeline. This contaminated public water sources, resulting in thousands of illnesses and premature death. Asbestos exposure attorneys hope that this grant will improve the quality of life for Ambler residents. Since asbestos products were produced and dumped into the area for such an extended period of time, the potential health effects are innumerable, and research should begin immediately.
Because of the mineral’s resistance of biodegradable degradation, asbestos does not dissolve in water, evaporate into the air, move through soil, or break down into other compounds. Once asbestos is released into the environment it settles relatively quickly and remains unchanged. Asbestos is most dangerous when it is damaged, disturbed or deteriorated beyond its existence in products.
The grant was presented to the university’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology in the amount of $1.2 million. Residents and researchers are hoping this grant will enable them to shed light on the issue, help understand health risks, treatment and detection techniques, and create a healthier neighborhood. Two asbestos piles – the Plant Pile and the Locust Street Pile – cover about 15 acres in a residential area of Ambler.
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In 1983, EPA determined that the site posed an imminent and substantial danger to the public health and welfare and made the decision to proceed with an emergency response action. EPA requested that Nicolet cover the piles, however, they replied that it would not comply with the specific termed outlined by EPA. Emergency cleanup was enacted by the EPA in 1984, and included covering the asbestos waste piles with soil, drainage work, erosion control, and fencing off the area.
The nearest residence is within 200 feet of the Locust Street Piles, and an estimated 6,000 persons live within 1.5 mile radius of the Site. The central business district of Ambler is located approximately one half mile of the waste pile and basins. The Ambler Asbestos Site is located in the metropolitan Philadelphia Interstate Air Quality Control Region. Locally, air quality is potentially impacted by industrial and private sources. Burrowing animals have caused minor problems in the re-exposure of waste materials at several locations of the piles.
Surface drainage from the waste piles and the manufacturing areas flow to Wissahickon Creek via storm sewers and small surface channels. Most of the regulatory effort to date has been focused on occupational exposures in industrial and educational settings. The development of guidelines for the general population has moved less rapidly due to the complexity of sampling, analyzing and interpreting asbestos concentrations in ambient air. The existing regulations and occupational health studies can however be used as a guideline in evaluating the quality of ambient air and water at the Ambler site.
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Pathways through which individuals may be exposed to chemicals at and from the Ambler site were reviewed. The most important potential human pathways of exposure for the Ambler site that were evaluated were: inhalation of asbestos in ambient air and during certain activities which stir up asbestos, incidental ingestion of chemicals in surface water, soil, and in sediment. Under present site and land use conditions, the potentially exposed populations include residents living in the Ambler site area, individual who work in the site area, and individuals who regularly visit the area (such as those using the Wissahickon watershed association facility). Given the inherent instability of the Locust Street and Plant Piles it would not be feasible to build structures on them. However, other nearby on-site industrial construction or activities could potentially affect the piles and increase exposed areas of asbestos and migration of asbestos from the site.
Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge those residents affected by sites to participate in the University of Pennsylvania’s studies. The five year study will document health assessments and assist local lawmakers in making decisions about the future of the site. If you developed mesothelioma or a related disease from asbestos exposure, contact our firm immediately for a free legal consultation.