Pennsylvania town struggles with deadly asbestos legacy

Federal grant will help answer questions about effects of asbestos in Ambler

The town of Ambler has a history of asbestos exposure stretching back to the 19 th-century. Built around a number of asbestos factories, the town now finds itself struggling to address its toxic legacy. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the University of Pennsylvania has received a federal grant to investigate the many unanswered questions raised by residents of Ambler concerning asbestos exposure. If researchers are successful, their findings could help shed light on the health effects of asbestos not only for people in Ambler, but across the United States.

History of asbestos

The town of Ambler was built around a number of asbestos factories, where many of its residents used to work. Although the factories have long been closed down and demolished, their negative effects persist. Since mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure, has a 40-year latency period, the health effects of that long asbestos history continues to cause problems for the town. Recent statistics show that the town has nearly three times as many mesothelioma cases as one would expect for a place of its size, and that figure fails to include residents who may have moved elsewhere after being exposed to asbestos in the town decades ago.

Furthermore, the two Superfund sites left over by the now-closed factories have remained a constant sore point for residents. Because of costs and environmental concerns, authorities decided to bury asbestos materials at the sites rather than remove them. Although the practice, experts say, removes the threat of exposure, it also means that valuable real estate in the town is essentially off limits to developers.

Questions raised

The University of Pennsylvania's Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology received a $10 million federal grant this year to study asbestos' effects on the town, according to CBS Philadelphia. Researchers will use the grant to try to answer some questions raised by residents of Ambler. For example, although men were the ones who typically worked at the town's asbestos factories, it was women, who would have been exposed to asbestos fibers on their husbands' clothing, who suffered a higher rate of mesothelioma.

Researchers will also be looking for answers to questions that could have implications for towns across the U.S. They are specifically looking to find out why some people get mesothelioma while others don't and whether there are ways to prevent the disease from developing.

Asbestos exposure

Mesothelioma is a deadly disease made all the worse by the uncertainty it raises. People who know they have been exposed to asbestos often wait decades anxiously wondering if their exposure will develop into serious health problems.

Those who are suffering the consequences of potential asbestos exposure should get in touch with an attorney who specializes in handling cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related claims. Such an attorney can provide the type of expertise victims of asbestos exposure need in order to understand what their rights and options are moving forward.