Allegheny County Asbestos Exposure

Allegheny County Asbestos Exposure

In 2013, the EWG Action Fund reported that out of all the counties in Pennsylvania, Allegheny County in western Pennsylvania had the highest number of asbestos-related deaths from 1999-2013, and the highest number of asbestos-related deaths per year. Pennsylvania is one of six states that have asbestos-related death rates higher than the national average, with over 14,000 deaths per year. In Allegheny County alone, on average 107 people die per year from an asbestos disease.

Pittsburgh has a rich history and was once known for producing mass quantities of iron, brass, tin, and steel for decades. However, it was not just the steel industry that contributed to the high rates of asbestos exposure in the area, but the electrical, manufacturing, and shipyard industries too.

J&L Steel
Founded in the 1850s, J&L Steel Company was once regarded as one of the finest integrated steel mills in operation and for more than 100 years, the company grew to maintain that reputation. Stretching seven miles along the Monongahela River, J&L Steel Company had three components – Hazelwood Works, South Side Plant, and Aliquippa Works.

Asbestos was a popular insulation material for steel mills because of its high tensile strength and heat resistant qualities. It was used throughout different areas of the steel mill, exposing workers, foremen, and supervisors to the carcinogen. Blast furnaces, coke ovens, basic oxygen furnaces, and open hearth furnaces all operated using extreme amounts of heat, so asbestos was useful in lining heat resistant tools and products for better production. Keepers, laborers, larrymen, stove tenders, pipe fitters, millwrights, electricians, and bricklayers all had the opportunity for asbestos exposure while working at J&L Steel.

Westinghouse Electric Corporation
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Westinghouse Electric Company, later renamed Westinghouse Electric Corporation was one of the largest and most successful electric companies in the United States.  Two of the largest factories were in East Pittsburgh and Lester Pennsylvania where turbines, light bulbs, welding rods, generators, and motors were all made for transmitting electricity.

Resistant to chemical degradation and heat, asbestos was used in many ways throughout the electrical plant. Light bulb manufacturing, power plant construction, wiring, turbine insulation, control panels, and products manufactured by Westinghouse contained asbestos; exposing most workers to the deadly carcinogen.

Pittsburgh Corning
Pittsburgh Corning was one of two joint ventures of Corning Incorporated – a manufacturer of glass and ceramics – that was in operation in Pittsburgh from 1937 to 2012. The company focused on manufacturing glass blocks for commercial and residential structures for decades until it agreed to buy and manufacture the Unibestos product line – products such as pipe and block insulation that contained asbestos. With the rights to the formula, Pittsburgh Corning manufactured the Unibestos product that was not only used in pipe insulation, but in various textiles, cements, finishes, and gaskets.

Those who worked at Pittsburgh Corning were exposed to raw asbestos as they unpacked shipments from South Africa with their bare hands and no protective gear.Every steel mill in the area, including J&L steel mills, as well as United States Steel plants, chemical plants, powerhouses and other industrial plants used Unibestos pipe covering and block insulation that was manufactured by Pittsburgh Corning at their plant in Port Alleghany Pennsylvania.

Dravo Corporation (Neville Island) Shipyard
Dravo Corporation was a shipbuilding company that had a shipyard on Neville Island, in Pittsburgh. River front access, location, and flat topography made Neville Island an ideal location for a Dravo shipyard and it remained profitable for many years. For shipyard workers, asbestos exposure rates are overall higher than those who worked in steel mills, chemical plants, or other trades. In an industry where fires are detrimental, the heat resistant qualities of asbestos were useful; its insulating abilities and the fact it would not corrode easily made asbestos a critical part of the shipbuilding and shipyard industry, especially around Word War II.

Since asbestos was used throughout most of the shipbuilding and repair process, workers on the ships, no matter their station and occupation, were most likely exposed. Workers could have been exposed to asbestos in the boiler and engine rooms, where asbestos was used for insulation purposes on pipes, gaskets, and valves.  Those involved in the construction, maintenance, and repair of the ships were exposed to asbestos when asbestos fibers in products became airborne. Asbestos was even mixed in with paint, so workers whose job it was to paint and repair the vessels were most likely exposed as well.

Even though Pittsburgh is cleaner and no longer considered the “Smoky City,” it is still feeling the lingering effects of asbestos exposure.  The airborne asbestos fibers were easily inhaled, but remained dormant in steelworkers, chemical plant workers, electricians, and other tradesmen for decades. Over the years, the tiny needle-like fibers became further embedded in the lining of certain organs and tissue resulting in fatal illnesses such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

At Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C., we understand that asbestos manufacturers and steel mills like the ones in Pittsburgh chose to place profits above workers health by knowing about the dangers of asbestos but choosing to not warn their employees of the risk.  If you are suffering from an asbestos-related illness such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the attorneys at GPW today for a free, no obligation consultation.

Job sites with known asbestos exposure in Pittsburgh


EWG Action Fund, Asbestos Nation [Link]


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