Asbestos Exposure in Buffalo, New York
Buffalo, New York is the second most populous city in the state of New York with a population of 261,310, according to the 2010 U.S Census Bureau.
Buffalo was the quintessential 19th century boomtown. Its position at the western end of the Erie Canal made it the Gateway to the West, the departure point for immigrants on their way to the heartland. Buffalo quickly became an industrial hub as the western terminus of the Erie Canal.
The Buffalo waterfront provides opportunities to learn how Buffalo helped shape the country as the terminus of the Erie Canal. Visitors to the city can tour WWII warships at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Museum.
Buffalo, beginning with the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, became a center for steel manufacturing, milling of grain and other industrial activities. For most of the twentieth century, until the 1980’s, the area remained highly industrialized. Companies like Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna, Caborundum Company in Niagara Falls, Chevrolet in Tonawanda, Ford Motor Company in Buffalo and Durez Corp in Niagara Falls, employed many residents of the greater Buffalo area.
Buffalo-area plants and factories through the 1980s used asbestos-containing materials in boilers, pumps, condensers, compressors, valves, electrical equipment and other equipment. Some also used raw asbestos in the manufacturing process. Workers who handled and even simply worked around asbestos and asbestos-containing materials were routinely exposed to carcinogenic asbestos dust. Workers also carried asbestos fibers home on their body and clothing, exposing family members.
Men and women at these plants were not warned to wear proper safety warnings by the suppliers of the asbestos-containing products to prevent inhalation of the dangerous asbestos fibers. They also were not told to properly de-contaminate themselves or clothes before going home, and they unknowingly exposed their family members to asbestos fibers clinging to their hair, clothes and shoes. The United States Environmental Agency reports that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos Linked to Diseases
Asbestos was one of the primary ingredients in many products including boilers, turbines, pumps and valves as well as insulation, bricks and joint compounds. It was also used in brake and clutch pads in large machinery and automobiles.
When asbestos materials are broken down they release needle-like microscopic fibers that, when inhaled or ingested, imbed in the membranes of the lungs and abdomen, leading to inflammation that over decades develops into fast-spreading tumors.
The ability of asbestos to cause lung scarring and cancer, including the incurable cancer mesothelioma, has been known for decades, but asbestos companies continued to make and sell their products long after the hazards were documented. The result was an entirely preventable public health epidemic.
While most people diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed in their jobs or home, others have developed mesothelioma from indirect contact with asbestos. Second-hand exposure to asbestos fibers has occurred when employees who worked around asbestos brought the fibers home on their clothing, shoes and hair. As a result, family members may have been contaminated by the asbestos fibers.