Tracing Asbestos Exposure in Western Pennsylvania

Asbestos, once hailed for its versatility and fire-resistant properties, is now recognized as a hazardous substance that can cause severe health issues, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Western Pennsylvania, with its rich industrial history centered around factories and steel mills, has been a hotbed for asbestos exposure. In this article, we will explore the specific companies and places where individuals may have encountered asbestos several decades ago in areas such as Johnstown, Altoona, and the surrounding towns.


1.1. Bethlehem Steel Corporation (Johnstown Works):

Located in Johnstown, Bethlehem Steel Corporation was a prominent steel mill and one of the primary sources of asbestos exposure in the area. Asbestos was extensively used in various components, including insulation, gaskets, and machinery, posing a significant risk to workers and surrounding communities.

Workers employed in the blast furnaces, coke ovens, pipefitters, and maintenance departments were particularly susceptible to asbestos exposure. Asbestos-laden products were prevalent throughout the mill, increasing the risk for employees in almost every area.

1.2. Johnstown Wire Technologies:

Previously known as Bethlehem Wire Rope, Johnstown Wire Technologies used asbestos-containing materials in its wire manufacturing processes. As a result, workers involved in cable production, maintenance, and repair were at a heightened risk of asbestos exposure.


2.1. Conrail Altoona Works:

Conrail Altoona Works, a major locomotive repair and maintenance facility, operated in the heart of Altoona. Asbestos was heavily used in the insulation of boilers, pipes, and other machinery components. Workers involved in maintenance, repairs, and construction were at risk of inhaling asbestos fibers during their daily tasks.

2.2. PRR (Pennsylvania Railroad) Shops:

The Pennsylvania Railroad Shops in Altoona were a critical hub for locomotive construction and repair. The use of asbestos was widespread throughout the shops, including in insulation, brake linings, and gaskets. Workers who performed tasks involving maintenance, repair, and renovation were at risk of asbestos exposure.

Surrounding Towns:

3.1. Westinghouse Electric Corporation (Blairsville):

Westinghouse Electric Corporation’s facility in Blairsville manufactured transformers and electrical equipment. Asbestos was utilized in various applications, such as insulation for electrical wiring, machinery, and equipment. Workers directly involved in manufacturing, installation, and maintenance were susceptible to asbestos exposure.

3.2. Babcock & Wilcox Company (Lynchburg):

Located in Lynchburg, Babcock & Wilcox Company was involved in the production of boilers, steam generators, and nuclear components. Asbestos was frequently employed in the insulation of these systems, putting workers in departments like maintenance, construction, and repair at risk of asbestos exposure.


Western Pennsylvania, including Johnstown, Altoona, and the surrounding towns, has a significant history of asbestos exposure due to its industrial heritage. Various companies, such as Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Johnstown Wire Technologies, Conrail Altoona Works, PRR Shops, Westinghouse Electric Corporation, and Babcock & Wilcox Company, were associated with asbestos-containing materials in their operations. These workplaces posed potential health risks to employees and surrounding communities. It is crucial for individuals who worked or resided near these facilities to be aware of the hazards and seek medical attention if they suspect asbestos exposure. Furthermore, raising awareness about asbestos-related diseases and promoting safety measures is essential to prevent future cases of asbestos-related illnesses.

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