Resources for Patients and their Families

ABEX Corporation

Based in Portsmouth, Virginia, the ABEX Corporation was a metals foundry that was in operation for over fifty years, closing in 1978. Its specialty was manufacturing parts for railroad cars, including journal (plain) bearings for trucks and brake shoes. Metals processed at the ABEX facility included iron, lead, brass and bronze. At present, the former ABEX facility is a Superfund Site. Toxins in the ground have affected residents at a nearby housing development.

One of the primary toxins involved in the ABEX operation was asbestos. It was present in almost every part of the facility as well as in its friction and braking products. Asbestos was commonly used as an insulating material as well as in applications where high heat and fire was a danger. Asbestos illnesses have a long latency period as symptoms of mesothelioma typically do not appear until years after initial exposure.

ABEX was a named defendant in an injury lawsuit filed in the Pennsylvania Eastern District Court, Third Circuit, in April 2010.

This firm was one of the multitudes of companies that, during the first two-thirds of the 1900s, utilized the fibrous mineral asbestos because of its ability to withstand fire. Even though asbestos' strength as an insulator undoubtedly saved lives, the eventual results of using it were tragic, and thousands of workers suffered serious illness and even died due to contact with asbestos. The reason large numbers of people have fallen ill from health conditions including miner's lung and cancer is that when humans inhale or ingest asbestos strands, the mineral remains in internal organs; once there, the sharp, microscopic spikes damage cells. The most serious of the asbestos-related complications is mesothelioma disease, a form of cancer that affects the lining of the pleural cavity; it is nearly always considered terminal for those who contract it.

Those who work around asbestos now are generally protected from contact because of the extensive body of laws controlling its utilization, presence at job sites and removal. Even up to the later part of the 20th century, however, workers all too often were told to toil in areas in which airborne asbestos was not filtered. In many cases, the risks of asbestos exposure were little understood. In addition, employees took dust containing asbestos home in their work garments when decontamination procedures weren't offered at the workplace; as a result, the potentially deadly mineral also endangered children of those who worked near asbestos.

Those who were employed here in the past, as well as those who lived with them, are encouraged to find out about these health conditions and inform their family doctors about their history of asbestos contact, because the signs of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma cancer can be mistaken for those of less serious conditions.

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari


Environmental Protection Agency – Abex Corporation Mid-Atlantic Superfund Site