Today’s post is a follow-up to one we wrote back in July 2014, “Penn Medical School Will Study Cluster Of Mesothelioma Cases In Ambler, PA, The Site Of A Long-Closed Asbestos Factory”.
In an October 19, 2014 article, “Penn study seeks to track Ambler’s asbestos legacy”, reporter Sandy Bauers, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, brings to life the story behind this upcoming medical study and provides the human aspect of this most unfortunate situation.
From that Inquirer news article:
Joe Amento, a lifelong resident of Ambler, was 53 when he died of a rare cancer with one main cause – exposure to asbestos.
He was fine at Christmas 2002. In January, a pain in his side kept him awake at night. He was found to have the disease in March. Before August, he was gone.
He left a wife, two children, and a community that to this day wrestles with the uncertain legacy of the huge asbestos factories that once brought the town jobs and prosperity, then sickness and death.
Amento never worked in the factories. He simply lived nearby. But his father, like many, found a job there as a young Italian immigrant.
Although the last factory closed decades ago, the piles of asbestos waste have remained in what are now two Superfund sites.
Even as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitors the completed cleanup at one site, and heavy machinery growls as it progresses at the second, many in the community remain edgy.
Mesothelioma has a 40-year latency period – the time between exposure and sickness. So people who have lived or worked just blocks away wonder: “Am I going to get sick?”
The University of Pennsylvania’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology has received a $10 million federal grant to seek answers….
And later from that same insightful article:
When the first of Ambler’s factories began making asbestos insulation in 1897, little was known – or later acknowledged – about the harm the tiny fibers could do to the human lungs.
As time passed, the piles of asbestos-containing waste outside the plants grew so high that people dubbed them the white mountains of Ambler. One topped out at 92 feet.
Even in summer, children sledded down the hills on flattened cardboard boxes. The area was a magnet for kids with bikes. Joe Amento was among them, said his brother, Pete.
The two sites total about 55 acres, a big chunk of land in the small, quaint town of Ambler, which was built around the factories as workers moved in.
A municipal park was once built atop the second site. It later was closed.
Even today, playgrounds, backyards, and businesses are less than a block away. That big hill behind the McDonald’s on West Butler Pike near the train station? It’s a dirt-encased pile that contains asbestos.
It seemed every family knew someone who had a lung disease. Joe Amento’s father died of asbestosis….
This in-depth piece of reporting about what has happened, and is still happening, in Ambler, Pennsylvania due to asbestos exposure — both occupational and “environmental”, if you will — is worth your time if you have any interest in the tragedy of asbestos-related diseases.
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