Asbestos in the State of Pennsylvania

Asbestos in the State of Pennsylvania

Asbestos in the State of Pennsylvania

Throughout much of the 20th century, asbestos was a popular building material due to its heat resistance, high-tensile strength, and affordability. As the dangers of asbestos became known, its use declined. The carcinogen was even banned for a short period of time in the late 1980s.  However, its widespread use has had lingering effects on society today, especially in Pennsylvania, and poses health risks such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos contamination in schools, mining operations, and building renovations continues to expose the public to the deadly carcinogen. When asbestos fibers become airborne, the particles are easily inhaled and may become embedded in soft organ tissue particularly around the heart, lungs and stomach. This can lead to inflammation and scarring, and increase the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, throat cancer, colon cancer, and asbestosis.

Asbestos Contamination in Schools
In the early 1980s, the EPA conducted research assessing the risk of asbestos exposure to faculty, staff, and students in schools. Results showed that there was a potential risk, so the EPA implemented certain rules and regulations to minimize its exposure. Recently, there have been new concerns over asbestos contamination, at three Pennsylvania schools, which resulted in students and staff being ordered to stay home by Governor Tom Wolf. In response to these concerns, a $1 billion plan was proposed to help combat asbestos in Pennsylvania schools. The proposal would give schools access to $1 billion in grants by expanding the Commonwealth-funded Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

Pa. Mining Operations May Trigger Asbestos Exposure
Mining asbestos in the U.S. has been banned since 2002, so most miners in are not likely to be exposed to asbestos in their line of work. However, traces of asbestos have been found in certain mines, particularly vermiculite and talc. Exposure to asbestos in mining can occur when you get into contact with:

  • The ore or rock being worked on at the mine
  • Commercial products at the site

Disturbing or damaging asbestos materials in any way could cause the asbestos fibers to be released into the air. Such was the case at the Rockhill Quarry in Sellersville, Pa., which was shut down in 2018 after asbestos was in the air. When mining operations resumed at the quarry, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick was forced to intervene as the quarry is based in a residential area where asbestos exposure could affect nearby residents. As a matter of public safety, all mining operations at the quarry were to be suspended for a few years, to give way for a geologist to conduct a multi-year independent geologic investigation to ensure that the asbestos does not pose a threat to the residents, especially school children.

This independent geologic investigation was necessary because the EPA would require data collected over a period of several years to accurately test for asbestos. In February 2020, the EPA was instructed to outline six tests that should be carried out on the effects of naturally occurring asbestos (NOA), as well as data on the level of NOA that is already in residential areas. Additionally, it was requested that the EPA complete an activity-based air sampling on any quarrying activities on-site, as well as an air monitor on the site perimeter and construction area.

Pa. Asbestos Exposure Removal in Older Houses and Buildings
Until the 1980s, many houses and buildings used asbestos-containing materials in their construction. When demolishing older buildings with asbestos, it is important to remove the asbestos first before proceeding with the demolition. This was the case when four old houses and one worn-out commercial building in Tarentum, PA were set to be demolished by January 2023, but the demolition had to be suspended when all of the buildings were shown to contain asbestos. The plan for the $90,000 community-owned retail building at 215 Corbet Street is to revitalize the area by opening the street for a 1,500-sq-ft lot of green space, benches, and parking. Now, since asbestos has been discovered, the project is on hold. Town officials are hopeful that the correct permits will be secured, and the buildings demolished before the end of the year.

Pa. Residents Entitled to Compensation
If you sustain an asbestos-related illness, you may be eligible for compensation or financial assistance. Compensation claims for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma can cover lost wages, medical bills, travel expenses, and more. Goldberg, Persky & White P.C. are experienced attorneys who have helped countless mesothelioma cases and victims of asbestos. Contact us today for a free no-obligation consultation.


“Occupational Safety and Health Administration” United States Department of Labor [Link]
“Is It In Schools?” B2 Environmental (2017) [Link]
Fernandez, Cynthia “Gov. Wolf calls for $1 billion to tackle lead and asbestos in schools across Pennsylvania” Spotlight PA (2020) [Link]
“Fitzpatrick Requests Pa. Quarry Asbestos Investigation by EPA” Brian Fitzpatrick (2020) [Link]

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