How Past Asbestos Use Still Affects Life Today

Asbestos in AmblerIn 1875, Ambler, Pennsylvania was the largest manufacturer of asbestos insulation and asbestos-containing products in the United States. Asbestos manufacturing brought economic growth to Ambler. With the growth came the knowledge that exposure to this  “miracle fiber” caused horrible disease, such as mesothelioma. Over the next 140 years, asbestos continued to contaminate the grounds, creeks, and playgrounds of Ambler.

Ambler, PA has over 3 million tons of asbestos waste left over from past manufacturing. The “Ambler Piles” (literally piles of asbestos) were the playground of many until the 1980s, and the area later became a superfund site.

In 2009, another Ambler asbestos waste site became the BoRit Superfund site. Despite this designation, this parcel of land has been proposed to become the home of a multi-story housing complex.

In 2015, the BoRit Citizen Advisory Group is still organizing efforts to properly clean up the town and keep the citizens of Ambler safe and informed. The Meso Foundation had the opportunity to organize an educational presentation on April 1, 2015. Diane Blackburn-Zambetti of the Meso Foundation was joined by Dr. Keith Cengel, and Richard Pepino to meet with community members to discuss prevention, research, treatment and more regarding asbestos and asbestos-related diseases. Diane helped residents learn about their resources and meet others whose lives have been impacted by asbestos. This meeting was well attended.

The EPA estimates that asbestos is still present in tens of millions of homes, government buildings, schools, and has also been found naturally-occurring in the soil in several locations in the United States, sometimes in very close proximity to inhabited areas. According to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an estimated 1.3 million construction employees continue to be occupationally exposed to asbestos. When disturbed, asbestos particles become airborne and are easily inhaled. No amount of exposure is deemed safe.

Contrary to popular belief, asbestos has not yet been fully banned by the U.S. government, but even if it were, the problem of exposures occurring as a result of past use continues. All individuals who have already been exposed and those who will continue to be exposed to the asbestos already present in our environment will remain at risk of mesothelioma. It is important to learn about the dangers of asbestos and where it is present in order to prevent exposure. This information and more is available at

Recognizing Workers Memorial Day on April 28

Asbestos WorkerWorkers Memorial Day is a day set aside by the unions of the AFL-CIO when we honor those who have passed either on thejob or from a job related injury. The day we also acknowledge the grieving of friends, family and community. On this day we re-evaluate our thoughts regarding safety and recommit to safety on the job.

April 28 is also the same date that OSHA was established as was the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970.  Under this Act employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy work environment.

Despite the existence of OSHA, work areas are not alwayssafe. Every day, workers are exposed to many physical, chemical and airborne hazards, which after many years, still include asbestos. Asbestos diseases claim the lives of over 10,000 lives every year. Asbestos is still present on many job sites. Job site fatalities CAN happen many years later from occupational exposures.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation realizes the importance of reducing occupational and take-home exposures through education of the workforce. Through education, we strive to eliminate asbestos exposures, therefore reducing asbestos disease deaths. We work with trades unions to deliver asbestos awareness education on a new level, including the following: anatomy, asbestos, asbestos diseases, other cancers caused by asbestos and proper communication with your health care provider. We help you understand HOW asbestos affects you and your family.

This year, on April 28 Diane Blackburn-Zambetti will be speaking during the Workers Memorial Day ceremony in Pittsburgh, PA.

For more information about asbestos exposure and who is at risk, visit

The Risk of Take-Home Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos WorkerAsbestos does not always affect only the initial person exposed. Take-home exposure, also known as secondary exposure or bystander exposure, is occupational exposure carried from the work place to the home, which exposes loved ones to the same toxins as the worker. These exposures will play a large role in ‘round two’ of asbestos disease. These exposures venture down many pathways; through laundry, wearing work boots throughout the house, using the same vehicle for work and family, or simply hugging a loved one when returning home from work.

When discussing this topic, Diane Blackburn-Zambetti, Director of Policy and Prevention Education at the Meso Foundation, stated, “In my career as a radiation therapist, I had the opportunity to treat not only one of my father’s co-workers, but both of his daughters for asbestos related diseases in an 8 year time span.”

Take-home asbestos exposures are not uncommon. In speaking with the mesothelioma community, Diane met various individuals affected by take-home exposures. In the late 1950s, the wife of a Steelworker was diagnosed with mesothelioma and passed away shortly after. Linda Papa lost her mom from take-home exposures she experienced while doing her husband’s laundry.

One man in the mesothelioma community was a proud IBEW 1 tradesman for 40 years. On Christmas Eve in 2004, he was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain. He passed away in 6 weeks. One year later, his daughter was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma.

In 2015, the work force has become more safety-oriented. This is not to guarantee that take-home exposures do not and will not occur, as mentioned above. In the mesothelioma community, it is more important than ever to educate and utilize the tools provided by the Meso Foundation to change the focus to STOP – LOOK – THINK when dealing with asbestos.

For more information about primary asbestos exposure and take-home exposure, visit

Oklahoma Tornados: The Continued Threat of Existing Asbestos in Our Homes

asbestos_smallMeso warrior, Liz VanZandt of Oklahoma, is acutely aware of the recent devastation from the tornados in Moore, Oklahoma. “I watched as people were climbing through the rubble in search of loved ones, pets and personal items left behind from the tornado,” she said. As a mesothelioma survivor, her thoughts go immediately to the asbestos that the tornados released into the air. Natural disasters, like the tornados in Moore, disturb existing asbestos-containing materials and they become airborne. We know that any exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, so anyone present at the site of the tornados is at risk for developing mesothelioma.

Ms. VanZandt knows this firsthand, saying “I wept when the thought came to my mind, long after they rebuild and the cameras are gone, the asbestos that they are in the midst of will most likely make some of them ill. It will be like getting hit all over.”

Unfortunately, these natural disasters and national tragedies (like the September 11th terrorists attacks) will continue to disturb the existing asbestos in our environment for years to come. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that asbestos still exists in 35 million homes in the United States, and that there are asbestos containing materials in most of the nation’s approximately 107,000 primary and secondary schools and 733,000 public and commercial buildings.[i]

The question remains, what will happen to the victims and first responders that are exposed to asbestos now, and develop mesothelioma 10-50 years down the road? The emergency funds provided by the Federal and State governments are not going to be available to them. ”I know the immediate needs have to be met and I am grateful this is being addressed. The long term needs should be acknowledged by our government.”

Unfortunately, even if asbestos were banned today, the existing threat remains. For all those who have been exposed in the past and will be exposed in the future, research to find better treatments and a cure for mesothelioma is the only way to ensure that asbestos becomes less dangerous and deadly.

[i] Accessed May 30, 2013.