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ATSDR Press Room

ATSDR Seeks Answers to Ellwood City Play Area, PA

Beaver County, Ellwood, Pennsylvania

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal public health agency, will hold a community meeting in Ellwood City to gather information from residents regarding a former play area near the old W.R. Grace/Zonolite facility in Ellwood City that may have been contaminated with asbestos.

The meeting will be held on March 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Ellwood City Borough Municipal Auditorium at 525 Lawrence Ave.

ATSDR received calls from local residents stating that when the old W.R. Grace/Zonolite facility processed vermiculite from a mine in Libby, Mont., from 1954 to 1969, waste rock was taken from the facility and distributed at the former play area. The waste rock contained asbestos fibers. If this waste rock were to be disturbed, it could release asbestos fibers into the air. While exposure to asbestos does not mean a person will develop health problems, ATSDR has linked some exposures to Libby vermiculite to respiratory illnesses such as asbestosis and lung cancer. ATSDR received no calls regarding waste rock taken from the old W.R. Grace & Co. facility in New Castle, which operated from 1969 to 1992.

ATSDR representatives will bring aerial maps of the former play area and materials on asbestos exposure to the meeting. Representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Health Division of Environmental Assessment and Epidemiology and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will also be available to meet with residents about their health concerns related to asbestos exposure.

ATSDR is also seeking information on any asbestos-containing waste rock that may have been brought from the W.R. Grace facilities to private homes. This waste rock could have been used in many ways, such as garden fertilizer and fill or as driveway surfacing material.

Residents unable to attend the meeting who have information about the distribution of waste rock from the W.R. Grace facilities are urged to call ATSDR Health Communications Specialist Maria Teran-MacIver at 1-888-422-8737.

Last September, ATSDR released public health consultations on the former W.R. Grace facilities in New Castle and Ellwood City. The major findings were:

  • Former workers are most at risk for asbestos exposure.
  • People who lived with former workers while vermiculite was being processed at the New Castle facility between 1969 and 1992 and the Ellwood City facility 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 facilities 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.

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

New Castle Public Library
207 East North St.
New Castle, Penn. 16101

Ellwood City Public Library
510 Crescent Ave.
Ellwood City, Penn. 16117

They also are available on-line at for the site in New Castle and for the site in Ellwood City. Asbestos information is available on the ATSDR Web site at

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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Related PHA & HC For this Press Release

Former W.R. Grace / Zonolite Co. Facility (Updated)
-Investigation of Nearby Play Area - 12th Street and Factory Avenue
Document Date: 9/30/2006 - HC  [PDF - 426 KB]

Former W.r. Grace/zonolite Co. Facility
-Investigation of Nearby Play Area
Document Date: 9/30/2006 - HC  [PDF - 410 KB]

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