New information released by the Environmental Working Group Action Fund (EWG) shows that Buffalo, New York has an abnormally high rate of mesothelioma deaths.
From 1999 to 2013, the EWG Action Fund studied asbestos-related deaths in three different counties in and surrounding Buffalo. In New York, the asbestos-related death rates are a little lower than the national average, yet in Erie County (located in Buffalo), Cattaraugus County (surrounding Buffalo), and Niagara County (surrounding Buffalo), the asbestos-related deaths are the worst in the country, over two to three times higher than the national average.
Asbestos Exposure at Job Sites in Buffalo
For more than 70 years, Buffalo was once home to a number of large industries, all of which once relied heavily on asbestos due to its affordability, ease of use, and resistance to fire and heat. Workers at these jobs sites were exposed to asbestos every day that they went to work. For example, Lackawanna Steel Plant, also known as Bethlehem Steel, was located slightly south of Buffalo and employed more than 15,000 people, who were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis. Many of these workers lived in Buffalo. Although the steel plant is no longer in operation, it left thousands of people with toxic illnesses, including malignant mesothelioma.
Buffalo’s General Motors (GM) Tonawanda Engine Plant is still in operation today, but in the past, the plant used so much asbestos in its products that it was impossible for workers not to come into contact with it. Automobile plants typically have an array of high-temperature machinery and piping, and plants built prior to the early 1980s had many asbestos-containing products, including gaskets, valves, pumps, pipes, turbines ad more.
The GM plant in Buffalo in particular once used massive amounts of asbestos-containing products, and when workers would grind the components to place into automobiles, asbestos fibers would permeate throughout the air in the plant. Since these fibers are extremely small, fine, odorless, and colorless, workers had no idea they were breathing in toxic fibers.
Older Homes in Buffalo
In addition to work-related asbestos exposure, Buffalo residents may also be breathing in asbestos fibers at home. According to Cattaraugus County Public Health Director, Dr. Kevin Watkins, Buffalo has a high rate of older homes that were built with asbestos-containing products.
“There are lots of old homes in the county, and industries are often lined with it,” Watkins told the Oleans Time Herald. “Until we build some newer buildings, it’s going to be some time before we see this trend go down.”
Watkins advises everyone who lives in older homes to wear protective respiratory masks when going into the home’s attic, roof, or when renovating walls (asbestos is typically inside walls in older homes). The same advice also applies to workers who go to jobs sites where asbestos may still remain.
“You should wear a mask capable of protecting you from microfibers,” said Watkins.
A regular paper face mask will not protect you from asbestos fibers. Instead, choose a half-face respirator that comes with HEPA filtered cartridges. Be sure to choose the purple cartridges, which are specifically designed to filter out asbestos.
Additional Resources for Asbestos Victims
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other illness related to asbestos, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. There is currently over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, set up for those who are victims to asbestos-related diseases. Use our free Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool today to find a leading mesothelioma attorney in your area. For additional assistance, contact us at 800-694-4856.