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Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma in Pennsylvania


If you have worked and lived in Pennsylvania for significant amount of time, there is a chance that you were exposed to asbestos at home or in the workplace. Prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to serious health problems including malignant mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer. As a service to people who live in Pennsylvania, we have compiled the following information about asbestos and mesothelioma in Pennsylvania.

Below you will find recent statistics about asbestos exposure and mesothelioma in Pennsylvania. We have also included descriptions of the industries and lists of cities, towns and specific job sites in Pennsylvania where asbestos exposure has occurred. Local Pennsylvania mesothelioma doctors and treatment centers are listed and recent news articles about asbestos and mesothelioma in Pennsylvania are also provided.

Asbestos and Mesothelioma Statistics in Pennsylvania

From 1999-2015, approximately 2,779 Pennsylvania residents died from mesothelioma

Asbestos Use Across Pennsylvania Industries

Western Pennsylvania is a critical part of the Rust Belt, notable particularly for steel production in Pittsburgh, while the Philadelphia area was home to textile, locomotive, and shipping industries, among others.


Although it does not have much coastline, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania makes the most out of what it has. As one of the largest cities in the country and a major commercial center since it was founded, Philadelphia has access to the Atlantic Ocean through the Delaware River, making it a natural spot for shipbuilding companies to form, such as William Cramp and Sons, the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, and Hog Island Shipyard. Other cities had their own shipyards as well, such as the Pittsburgh Steamship Company in Pittsburgh, which has plenty of river access.


Pittsburgh is known as the Steel City, and for good reason, given that the steel industry fueled the city’s economic growth for much of the 20th century. Steelmaking involves the use of tremendous heat and flame at very high temperatures, and asbestos was used to protect both workers and equipment from being harmed by the extreme heat. Some of the steel mills and foundries that employed asbestos include the Aliquippa Steel Company, National Steel Company, the Pittsburgh Steel Foundry, and the Bethlehem Steel Mill.


During the height of the railroad expansion, Erie, PA, became a prominent city along the Rust Belt where locomotives were built. Companies like General Electric Transportation Systems and Pennsylvania Railroad produced their powerful engines, at the same time exposing many of the people involved in the labor-intensive work to the dangers of asbestos, which was used in both the locomotives themselves as well as the machines used to create them.


Although thousands of miles away from the vermiculite mines in Libby, MT, Pennsylvania still had to deal with the problem of asbestos that contaminated those materials. In particular, from 1948 until 1993, the W.R. Grace Corporation shipped almost 425,000 tons of vermiculite ore from Libby to its processing plant in New Castle, PA, where it was converted into insulation and gardening products. Similar processing operations were located in Philadelphia, Lancaster, and seven other Pennsylvania towns.

Pennsylvania Shipyards and Superfund Sites

Pennsylvania’s access to the Atlantic Ocean is primarily through the Delaware River in Philadelphia; however, in the northwestern part of the state, there is a patch of shoreline along the Erie Canal, giving the state access to the Great Lakes.

Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Company (Penn Shipbuilding)

Located in Chester, PA, about 15 miles south of Philadelphia on the Delaware River, the Penn Shipbuilding facility was built in 1917. For most of its operating period, the site served the oil and gas industry, and at one time was ranked as the largest shipyard in the U.S., producing about 40% of the tanker vessels used by the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war, the shipyard continued building and repairing midsize and large ships, until it shut down in the late 1980s. Throughout most of that time, asbestos was used heavily in marine vessels, especially those used by the oil and gas industry, given the risk of shipboard fire.

Philadelphia Naval Yard

Possibly the oldest shipyard in the country, the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard opened in 1801. However, it wasn’t until the first World War that the yard’s operations expanded significantly to include a dry dock, chemical laboratory, barracks, hammerhead crane, and even a POW camp for German ship crews. The shipyard expanded again during World War II, during which it constructed a number of aircraft carriers, battleships, and destroyers for the U.S. Navy. While the shipyard continued into the 1990s, it eventually shut down after completing work on its capstone ship, the USS Kennedy.

Ambler Superfund Site

One of the sites to which W.R. Grace sent its vermiculite contaminated with asbestos was a facility in Ambler, PA, located about 16 miles north of Philadelphia. Because of its handling of these materials, the Ambler site became known as the “asbestos-manufacturing capital of the world,” and the town itself was called “the town that asbestos built.” The EPA added the Ambler Asbestos Superfund Site to its list in 1986, latter adding the nearby landfill at the BoRit Asbestos Site (also in Ambler) to the list as well.

$32 Billion Available in Asbestos Trusts for Mesothelioma Victims

To help cover medical costs and provide financial security.

Pennsylvania Cities with Known Asbestos Exposure

Learn more about asbestos exposure in the major towns and cities of Pennsylvania by clicking on the links below. If you worked at any of the jobsites highlighted on these pages, there is a possibility that you may have been exposed to asbestos which is known to cause the terminal cancer mesothelioma.

Asbestos Risks at Other Pennsylvania Work Sites

Workplace asbestos exposure is also a concern if one looks beyond the major cities and towns in Pennsylvania. Select a town below to see the list of its job sites known to have exposed workers to asbestos. Asbestos exposure at any one of the job sites revealed could have placed a worker at risk to develop mesothelioma cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos-Related News in Pennsylvania

Millions of Asbestos Fibers Found in Philadelphia Elementary Schools

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - June 22, 2018

Millions of asbestos fibers have been found throughout the Philadelphia school district, according to a joint investigation by The Inquirer and Daily News. The investigation sought to uncover dangerous substances in Philadelphia schools, including asbestos, lead, and mold.

EPA Names BoRit Asbestos Superfund Site in Ambler as Promising for Redevelopment

Ambler, Pennsylvania - January 26, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency cited 30 Superfund sites that have the greatest potential for redevelopment and commercial productivity, including the BoRit Asbestos Superfund site in Ambler. The sites included on this redevelopment list are based on outside interest, access to highways and transportation, and the value of the land, among other factors.

Find Mesothelioma Doctors, Lawyers and Asbestos Exposure Sites Near You

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari

Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli

Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their Families

Jennifer R. Lucarelli

EWG Action Fund. “W. R. Grace Hotspots in Pennsylvania.” Environmental Working Group, 1 June 2005. (accessed 23 August 2010).

Geological Research, Analyses and Services Programs. “Naturally Occurring Asbestos Locations in the Contiguous U.S. and Alaska.” Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 25 May 2007. (accessed 23 August 2010).

Krstev, S. et al. “Mortality Among Shipyard Coast Guard Workers: A Retrospective Cohort Study.” Occupational and Environmental Medicine 64 (October 2007): 651-8.

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