The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), the largest independent non-profit organization in the U.S. which combines education, advocacy, and community to prevent exposure and protect asbestos victims’ civil rights; released laboratory results confirming that a debris sample collected outside a former asbestos superfund site fence line in Ambler, PA (Montgomery County) tested positive for 60 percent chrysotile asbestos. It’s been nearly 22 years since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the Ambler Asbestos Piles Site final cleanup, yet toxic debris remains a public health threat.
Exposure to asbestos may cause mesothelioma, lung, gastrointestinal, laryngeal, and ovarian cancers in addition to non-malignant lung and pleural disorders. The World Health Organization (WHO), International Labor Organization (ILO), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agree there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.
Under the Superfund program, created by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, the EPA is “authorized to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment.”
Based on new findings of asbestos contamination, ADAO called on Congress to request the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the Ambler Asbestos Piles and the BoRit Asbestos Superfund sites to evaluate the past and present impact asbestos contamination in the air, water, and soil had and continues to have on the public health and the environment. In addition to the GAO investigation, ADAO is calling for federal agencies to establish a medical monitoring and surveillance program and clinic in Ambler and sample the homes (exterior and interior) that are near the superfund sites, for asbestos contamination.
“Ambler, Pennsylvania is just one of many American communities still haunted by the most horrific and long-running public health crisis in history -- asbestos waste contamination,” said ADAO President, Linda Reinstein. “Recent laboratory tests indicate that, for the residents of Ambler, there is no end in sight. As a result of the Keasbey and Mattison Company’s extensive manufacturing, processing, and distribution from 1897 to 1962, Ambler became known at the ‘Asbestos Capital of World.’ The deadly legacy continues, as each year, 12,000 – 15,000 Americans are killed by asbestos. Shockingly, government records show Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation with the most deaths caused from mesothelioma and asbestosis. Montgomery County, PA ranks number 13 out of 518 counties in the nation with the most mesothelioma and asbestosis deaths from 2000 - 2009.”
Ambler resident, Marilyn Amento, lost her husband, Joe, to asbestos-caused mesothelioma after he was exposed in the 1960s to asbestos fibers in the Borough. “He lost his life at age 53. Our kids were 8 and 10 when he died. I don’t want anyone else to suffer and die as my husband did,” said Amento. “I want our federal, state, and local governments to work together to make Ambler safe forever. There are crumbling, abandoned Keasbey and Mattison buildings along North Maple Street, directly across the street from the BoRit site. Why has nothing been done with them? It’s so frustrating.”
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy said, “Because of its use in so many products, asbestos is still of special concern for anyone who works in construction. The danger comes from inhaling the tiny fibers or dust released into the air once asbestos has been disturbed or damaged.”
“Asbestos remains legal and lethal today, and imports continue. Congress must pass legislation that ensures the EPA can once and for all ban asbestos in the United States,” said Reinstein. “ADAO applauds the citizens of the Amber Borough for their tireless efforts that have led to the listing of the Ambler Asbestos Piles and BoRit areas as superfund sites;” said Reinstein. “Leading by example, the Ambler community has taught the nation that dedication, diligence, and community activism fuels change.”