Elmira is the county seat of Chemung County, New York. It is located on the south side of the Chemung River in the Southern Tier of New York.
Elmira has a population of close to 30,000, and is the largest population center in Chemung County, which has a total population of nearly 90,000. Elmira is known as “The Soaring Capital of America,” named that for having hosted the national glider plane soaring competition each year since 1930.
In the nineteenth century, during the transportation revolution in America, Elmira became a transportation hub for the southern tier of New York, and with it came an influx of manufacturing to Elmira and the surrounding area.
Elmira connected the commercial centers of Rochester and Buffalo with Albany and New York, first by canal and then in the mid-nineteenth century by railroad. The transportation network in Elmira facilitated the transport of coal from Pennsylvania mines into the state of New York.
The Elmira area was home to many large manufacturers, primarily Corning Glass which was a massive industrial employer with numerous factories in the area. Corning plants used asbestos in many applications – because heat was required for making glass.
Other local employers included Dresser-Rand and Kennedy Valve Company. A variety of transportation and railroad companies, as well as other glass companies, also used asbestos in their plants. Construction workers who built these factories, and local electricians and plumbers, were also exposed to asbestos.
Manufacturing continues to be a large industry in Elmira. The largest local employer is Corning Glass, located nearby to Elmira. Dresser-Rand and Kennedy Valve Company are other local manufacturers. Anchor Glass Container Corporation, a manufacturer of glass containers, and CAF USA, a Spanish manufacturer of trains, are other large employers in Elmira today.
The Dangers of Asbestos Exposure
The manufacturers of asbestos and companies that supplied asbestos products to the plants where Elmira residents worked did not provide adequate safety warnings to prevent the workers from inhaling the asbestos fibers.
Asbestos is associated with asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs and abdomen. Many of these workers inhaled the deadly fibers making them susceptible to developing these diseases. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports, “Asbestos is a human carcinogen with no safe level of exposure.” Unfortunately, once asbestos is inhaled, mesothelioma becomes a lifelong risk.
Around 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year, with nearly the same number dying from the disease. New York is among the states with the highest number of deaths from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. In the state of New York, nearly 4,000 deaths caused by asbestos exposure have occurred since 1979.
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