The LuLac Edition #1488, Feb. 23rd, 2011
PHOTO INDEX: "WRITE ON WEDNESDAY" LOGO.
WRITE ON WEDNESDAY
ASBESTOS IN PENNSYLVANIA
Mining has a long and storied history in Pennsylvania. The western part of the state is home to large deposits of bituminous coal, and the culture of these areas was shaped by the prevalence of the mining industry there. However, coal is not the only mineral found in natural deposits in Pennsylvania – the state was also one of the few in the U.S. to mine asbestos.
The U.S. Geological Survey has records of four former asbestos mines in Pennsylvania, all in the southeastern corner of the state. Amphibole asbestos came from these mines, and while it is not the most popular type of the mineral for use in construction materials, it is the more dangerous type. Its fibers are more likely to crumble than the more common chrysotile asbestos, making it more likely to be inhaled or ingested. Because of this, in 2005, there were more reported occurrences of dangerous asbestos in Pennsylvania than any other state with the exception of New Jersey.
Sadly, this prevalence of asbestos pollution takes a heavy toll on public health. According to a CDC study, between the years of 1999 and 2005, Pennsylvania had the fourth highest rate of mesothelioma
deaths in the nation at 20.8 per million people. Symptoms of mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of the lining of the lung, include shortness of breath, pain in the chest, and fluid on the lungs. Because these symptoms may also occur in many other, less serious lung conditions, mesothelioma often goes undiagnosed until the later stages of the disease, when treatment is far less effective.
Asbestos was commonly used to add heat resistance to many construction materials and pieces of factory equipment. It was also highly popular in the shipbuilding industry, since boats at sea needed to reduce the risk of fire as much as possible. The Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, later the Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Company, operated out of Chester, PA, from 1917 to 1989 during the height of asbestos use. Many former navy personnel and shipbuilding workers have begun to display mesothelioma symptoms in recent years, since the cancer can remain dormant for 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure.
Nowadays, asbestos in Pennsylvania is largely found in homes and other buildings constructed prior to the 1980s. If these asbestos-containing materials are intact, they are not harmful and should not be disturbed. However, any damaged or worn materials should be removed by a professional. The removal and disposal of asbestos in public buildings is the responsibility of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Though the DEP does not regulate asbestos removal for private homes, it is best to hire a licensed abatement team if you believe you have asbestos at your place of residence. For the name of a licensed contractor or more information, please call the Wilkes-Barre DEP regional office at (570) 826-2511.
Tiffany Best is a guest writer to LuLac. She is very passionate about the proper care that should be taken when it comes to Veteran’s health, especially with deadly diseases caused by Asbestos.