Asbestos Troubles at The Altoona Works

Nestled in the picturesque city of Altoona, Pennsylvania, The Altoona Works, once a thriving hub of industrial activity, has faced its share of challenges. Amidst its storied history, one issue looms large: the presence of asbestos. Over the years, the company has grappled with the harmful effects of asbestos exposure on its workers and the surrounding community, prompting a battle for justice and improved safety measures.

A Brief Overview of The Altoona Works:

The Altoona Works, formerly known as the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Altoona Machine Shops, dates back to the mid-19th century. It played a vital role in the industrial development of Altoona, serving as a major railroad repair and manufacturing facility. The company’s facilities encompassed vast areas, including locomotive repair shops, car shops, foundries, and machine shops.

The Asbestos Connection:

During the height of its operations, The Altoona Works employed thousands of workers, many of whom were unknowingly exposed to asbestos. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, was widely used in various industries due to its heat-resistant and insulating properties. It found its way into insulation, gaskets, brake linings, pipes, and other products used at The Altoona Works, posing a significant risk to the health of employees.

Health Issues and Litigation:

Decades after exposure to asbestos, workers at The Altoona Works began to experience debilitating health issues. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to severe respiratory conditions, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. As the toll of asbestos-related illnesses became apparent, affected workers and their families sought legal recourse.

Numerous lawsuits were filed against The Altoona Works and its parent company, seeking compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and wrongful death. These legal battles shed light on the company’s negligence in adequately protecting its employees from asbestos exposure. In some cases, settlements were reached, while others are still ongoing as victims and their families strive for justice.

Community Impact:

The repercussions of asbestos exposure extended beyond the workers themselves. Asbestos fibers, when airborne, can travel beyond the workplace, potentially affecting the broader community. Residents living near The Altoona Works were also at risk of exposure, leading to concerns about long-term health consequences.

Efforts towards Remediation and Awareness:

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, The Altoona Works took steps to address the asbestos issue. The company implemented comprehensive asbestos abatement programs to minimize exposure risks for current employees and visitors. Strict safety protocols, including proper handling and disposal of asbestos-containing materials, were established to safeguard workers’ health.

Additionally, awareness campaigns were launched to educate employees about the dangers of asbestos and promote early detection of asbestos-related illnesses. Regular medical screenings were provided to monitor the health of current and former employees who may have been exposed.


The Altoona Works, an emblem of Altoona’s industrial heritage, has faced significant challenges due to asbestos exposure. The devastating health effects experienced by workers and the potential impact on the surrounding community underline the urgent need for stricter safety regulations and increased accountability.

Through ongoing litigation and the implementation of robust asbestos abatement measures, The Altoona Works aims to mitigate the consequences of past negligence and protect its current and future workforce. The battle for justice and improved safety practices serves as a reminder of the importance of prioritizing employee well-being and the community’s health in all industrial endeavors.


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