Resources for Patients and their Families

H. K. Porter

Pittsburgh, PA was home to the H. K. Porter Company, which was founded in 1866. The company produced light duty locomotives for the railroad industry until 1950. By 1939 the founder of the company, Henry Kirke Porter, had passed away and the company was purchased by Thomas Mellon Evans. Evans also bought up many other manufacturing facilities, which would soon become the new focus for the Porter Company.

Locomotives declined in popularity, and 1950 saw the last new locomotive built at the H. K. Porter Company. The company began creating a variety of industrial products at the many facilities that Evans now owned. Unfortunately, several of these products contained a naturally occurring material called asbestos. This material was commonly used by industrial manufacturers for years, but over time research showed that it is toxic and highly hazardous. It is made up of tiny fibers, and when any item containing asbestos is disturbed, the fibers are prone to break apart float into the air. They are small enough to be inhaled without it being noticeable, and trace amounts of asbestos can become lodged in the person's respiratory system. This can lead to various diseases, the most common of which is asbestos cancer, also known as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is primarily caused by asbestos exposure but smoking and mesothelioma are also related. Those with a smoking history that have also been exposed to asbestos are more likely to develop the disease. While there is a mesothelioma vaccine to help prevent the disease there is no cure once a diagnosis is made. As a result, the mesothelioma survival rate is not high. There are, however, well regarded doctors like Dr. Raphael Bueno practicing at top mesothelioma cancer clinics around the country that help patients experience improved quality of life. These doctors use a combination of treatments to achieve this including mesothelioma extrapleural pneumonectomy, pleurocentesis, pleurodesis and pneumonectomy. Chemotherapy is also often used. The most common chemo drugs are Alimta®, Navelbine and Onconase. We’ve provided a variety of mesothelioma resources to help you learn more about the disease. Our mesothelioma treatment guide offers much more information about treatment options.

People who spent time around the products made by the Porter Company started to become ill, and a connection was soon made between the asbestos found inside these products and the illnesses. Victims of exposure to the hazardous material began to file lawsuits, and the company was hit with a multitude of personal injury claims. By 1991, the company had declared bankruptcy.

After going through a bankruptcy process, Porter was allowed to remain in business and reduce the amount of money spent on asbestos based health claims. The company also created a trust fund charged with reviewing all asbestos-related lawsuits and paying off valid claims as necessary. Today the company continues to operate, as does the trust fund. New claims are still being submitted because the effects of asbestos exposure often take multiple years to develop. For this reason anyone who has spent time around products made by the H. K. Porter Company that contained this hazardous material is urged to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari