Asbestos Exposure in Ambler, PA

In the borough of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the town of Ambler harbors a complex history. In the late 19th century, the then-village of Wissahickon was transformed into a self-sustaining asbestos manufacturing hub by Henry Keasbey and Dr. Richard Mattison. These founders relocated their patent medicine company there and unexpectedly discovered a method for making pipe insulation by mixing magnesium carbonate with asbestos. By the turn of the century, the company expanded into a wide range of asbestos-related products, even opening the first asbestos textile plant in the United States in 1896.

Ambler’s industry thrived for nearly a century, despite various financial hardships and ownership changes. However, the mid-20th century brought increased public awareness of the dangers of asbestos exposure, and environmental regulatory agencies began to intervene. Despite these challenges, asbestos manufacturing persisted in Ambler until 1987, when the weight of asbestos-related lawsuits drove Nicolet Industries, the last in a line of owners, to file for bankruptcy protection.

However, Ambler’s decades-long association with asbestos left an indelible mark on the community. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, funded by a grant from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, began studying the exposure pathways that led to a high incidence of mesothelioma, a rare cancer almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure, in Ambler. An alarming rate of mesothelioma, three times higher than Pennsylvania’s average, was reported in Ambler’s zip code, linked to the 1.5 million cubic yards of asbestos waste dumped in the area from 1930 to 1974. Infamously, these deposits became known as the “White Mountains of Ambler,” as local children would often play on these piles, and wind would carry the hazardous dust into nearby residences.

The legacy of asbestos production in Ambler led to the designation of two Superfund sites: the Ambler Asbestos Piles and the BoRit Asbestos Site. The former was recognized in 1986 and subsequently cleaned up under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) supervision, who deemed the area safe by 1996. The BoRit site, used as an asbestos dumping area from the early 1900s to the late 1960s, was not given Superfund status until 2009 after community advocacy, in response to a proposed high-rise development that risked disturbing the asbestos waste. The initial cleanup phase completed in 2015 and long-term operations and maintenance of the site are ongoing. Despite the town’s continued efforts to manage its asbestos-ridden past, tensions persist between development ambitions and community safety concerns.

Today, Ambler stands as a poignant example of the consequences of industrial negligence and the necessity of stringent environmental regulations. Despite the cessation of asbestos production, its harmful legacy continues to impact the community. Ambler’s history serves as a reminder of the potential hazards of industry and the responsibility to ensure safe and healthy communities for future generations.

Here at the Halpern Law Firm, we are here for victims of mesothelioma. We want to make sure that all victims of mesothelioma get the compensation they deserve. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and are interested in receiving compensation, call 800-505-6000 for a free case evaluation today. We are available 24/7.


Written By Jeff Nelson

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