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Asbestos

Media Announcements - New Castle, PA

Workers at Nine Former Vermiculite Processing Plants Were Exposed to Asbestos
Plants in New Castle and Ellwood City evaluated

 

For Immediate Release: September 22, 2005

ATLANTA - Workers that processed vermiculite from a mine in Libby, Montana at nine former plants located throughout the United States were exposed to asbestos and are at increased risk for developing asbestos related health problems, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) reports in public health consultations released today. The plants that processed Libby vermiculite are located in Dallas, TX; Ellwood City, PA; Honolulu, HI; Marysville, OH; New Orleans, LA; Newark, CA; New Castle, PA; Portland, OR; and Wilder, KY.

Today's releases bring to 21 the number of public health consultations completed in a series of 28 evaluations being conducted at sites across the United States that received and processed vermiculite mined in Libby, MT. The vermiculite from Libby contained asbestos. While exposure to asbestos does not mean a person will develop health problems, ATSDR has linked some exposures to Libby vermiculite to respiratory illnesses. The remaining reports will be released by the end of 2005.

Between 1969 and 1992, the former W.R. Grace & Company site, located at 202 East Cherry Street in New Castle processed vermiculite mined in Libby, MT. The former W.R. Grace/Zonolite Company facility, located at 12th and Factory Street in Ellwood City processed Libby vermiculite between 1954 and 1969. The major findings for these sites are consistent with many of those found at the other sites evaluated, mainly:

  • Former workers are most at risk for asbestos exposure
  • Those that lived with former workers while Libby vermiculite was being processed at the New Castle plant between 1969 and 1992 and the Ellwood City plant between 1954 and 1969 also could have been exposed to asbestos by workers carrying home asbestos fibers on their hair and clothing.

ATSDR recommends that former workers at the two sites, and household members who lived with them, take specific steps to protect their health and improve quality of life:

  • Learn more about asbestos exposure,
  • See a doctor with experience in asbestos-related lung disease,
  • Quit smoking,
  • Get regular flu and pneumonia shots.

People could have been exposed to asbestos if they handled or played in waste rock, a by-product of vermiculite exfoliation. At some vermiculite plants, workers or people in the community may have brought waste rock from the plant to their homes. This waste rock was used in many ways, for example in gardens and as fill or driveway surfacing material.

When processing vermiculite, the plants might have released dust and asbestos fibers into the air. ATSDR cannot determine the extent of exposure to former residents who lived near the plants.

Most current residents living around the former plants are not being exposed to asbestos from the sites. The New Castle and Ellwood City plants stopped processing asbestos-contaminated vermiculite in 1992 and 1969, respectively. It is possible that workers or people in the community may have brought home asbestos-contaminated waste rock home to use in their gardens and other areas. When waste rock that is uncovered and open to the air is stirred up, asbestos fibers may be released into the air.

The ATSDR public health consultations for the two sites are available for review at :

New Castle Public Library
207 East North Street
New Castle, PA 16101

Ellwood City Public Library
510 Crescent Avenue
Ellwood City, PA 16117

For more information about the health consultations, community members can contact Health Communication Specialist Maria Teran-MacIver, toll-free, at 1-888-422-8737. Callers should refer to the former W.R. Grace & Company site in New Castle and the former W.R. Grace/Zonolite Company facility in Ellwood City.

ATSDR, a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, evaluates the human health effects from exposure to hazardous substances.

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Members of the news media can request an interview by calling the NCEH/ATSDR Office of Communication at 404-498-0070.

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