Jump to main content.


BoRit Questions & Answers - Health and Safety Concerns

BoRit Questions & Answers Main Page

  1. Is EPA testing for asbestos along the Wissahickon Creek and is it safe for the public to be in these areas?  (7-3-2010)

  2. My son and friends routinely visit the Wissahickon Creek, fish, play, dig, pretend they are panning for gold, skip flat stones, etc. south of BoRit. Is it safe for them to play in the creek where the EPA has identified asbestos? (8-23-2009)

  3. Why is EPA cleaning up the stream? Will EPA update its Health and Safety Plan (HASP) prior to the stream clean activities? (8-21-2009)

  4. Will the BoRit community receive a questionnaire similar to what was used at the Libby community? (8-13-2009)

  5. Will EPA test residential yards for asbestos? (8-13-2009)

  6. What are the current risks at the BoRit site? (8-13-2009)

  7. Will EPA identify where the waste may be located and will sampling be done where there are tide pools, eddy currents behind bridge abutments, obvious overflow ponding and deep water depressions where asbestos waste may have migrated? (8-10-2009)

  8. Under what circumstances will the EPA sample off of the Site during Phase I (e.g. the south side of the Wissahickon Creek flood plain)? (8-10-2009)

  9. Are there any grant programs from the Health Departments for a specialized X-Ray machine to be located in Ambler to help diagnose pleural plaques? (5-18-2009)

  10. Are there plans for putting out a fire on site after work begins and will fire trucks become contaminated with asbestos? (9-5-2008)

  11. Did the workmen wear personal protection equipment (PPE) while invasive operations are occurring? (9-5-2008)

  12. Why are all the exposed areas not being covered temporarily at the end of the work day? (9-5-2008)

  13. Why are there men working at the park in suits? Do the residents across the Wissahickon need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE)? (9-5-2008)

  14. Are short asbestos fibers considered to be a health threat/risk? (1-2008)

  15. What goes into a risk assessment? On what basis is a risk-based decision made? (1-2008)

  16. When other sites do not make the National Priorities List what was done to make them safe? (1-2008)

  17. How many non-worker cases of asbestos-related illness have been reported in the Ambler area?(1-2008)

  18. If asbestos waste is covered with soil, can it work its way to the surface?(1-2008)

  19. Is there a minimum amount of soil cover that is recommended?(1-2008)

  20. Will EPA coordinate with all of the health agencies involved to implement a more in-depth, health data collection protocol? (12-27-2007)

  21. Is non-cancer asbestos-related disease tracked? (12-27-2007)

  22. Will EPA look at non-occupational cases of asbestos disease? (12-27-2007)

  23. Will EPA continue to monitor and test the site? (12-27-2007)

  24. Why were the cancer statistics presented based on one sampling event and not the average of all the air tests to date? (8-8-2007)

  25. Is the 19002 zip code the best way to identify asbestos exposures? (8-8-2007)

  26. Given the fact that there was a very large asbestos operation here, who operated for 80 years, would an increase in asbestos related deaths be expected? (8-8-2007) Does EPA recognize that the Site represents a potential health hazard? (3-12-2007) How can EPA conclude that there is no risk to public health and safety at this time? (3-12-2007)

  27. Does EPA recognize that the Site represents a potential health hazard? (3-12-2007)

  28. How can EPA conclude that there is no risk to public health and safety at this time? (3-12-2007)

  29. What is a health screening study and is one being done for residents in the vicinity of the site?(3-12-2007)

  30. What should residents do if they think they have been exposed to asbestos? (3-12-2007)

  31. What is the role of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) at the site, and what is the basis for ATSDR's conclusions and findings about the site? (3-12-2007)

  32. Do fencing and signs provide sufficient protection at the site, given the results of the tests performed by EPA?  (3-12-2007)

  33. Would EPA be satisfied with the data if their own children were growing up in Ambler or the nearby communities? (3-12-2007)

  34. How did the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) come to its public health conclusions and what was their reasoning for analyzing health information based only the Ambler zip code? (3-12-2007)

  35. Will EPA conduct health screening for residents in the vicinity of the Site? (1-24-2007

  36. What is the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s (ATSDR) role at the site and what are their conclusions and findings? (1-24-2007)

  37. What is the source of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s (PADOH) cancer information and what was their reasoning for analyzing only the Ambler zip code? (1-24-2007)
  38. What do state and federal health agencies say regarding claims of increased cancer rates in the Ambler area?  (9-2006)

  39. What can residents do to ensure their safety? (9-2006)

  40. Can either the PADEP or EPA guarantee that kids are not trespassing and causing airborne fiber?

  41. Could the building rubble left in the remnant of the old factory closest to Chestnut Street contain a lot of contamination? How about the building rubble lying back there along the street?

    Top of page

  1. Is EPA testing for asbestos along the Wissahickon Creek and is it safe for the public to be in these areas?  (7-3-2010)

    EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry are aware that pieces of asbestos containing waste material (such as pieces of old pipes) are present in scattered areas offsite. Exposure to asbestos is a concern if you inhale the tiny fibers. The asbestos-containing material (ACM) on the ground is not a concern unless the fibers become airborne and are inhaled. To date, air monitoring in the community has not shown levels of concern related to asbestos. However, to mitigate public exposure from the debris along the creek, beginning this summer, when water levels are expected to be low (shallow), EPA is planning to remove waste material along the Wissahickon Creek, beginning at Mt. Pleasant Avenue and moving downstream. In addition, EPA has initiated stationary and activity-based sampling (ABS) at the area downstream of Butler Pike (near the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association offices), where ACM has deposited, to determine if the waste there poses current or future risk to human health or the environment.

    Top of page


  2. My son and friends routinely visit the Wissahickon Creek, fish, play, dig, pretend they are panning for gold, skip flat stones, etc. south of BoRit. Is it safe for them to play in the creek where the EPA has identified asbestos? (8-23-2009)

    The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) cannot advocate swimming in any unsupervised waterway, since there are no lifeguards to keep swimmers (both child and adult) safe from water levels that can change unexpectedly based on weather conditions. Furthermore, the public health agencies strongly discourage any contact with asbestos-containing material (ACM) found on the site or in the streams. However, we do understand that members of the public recreate in these areas. The current environmental sampling data for sediments or streams (Wissahickon, Rose Valley, and Tannery) do not indicate that recreational contacts with these streams/sediments would be a problem based on the levels of exposure. Fibers have not been detected in any of EPA's 2006-2007 surface water samples taken from the streams (i.e., Wissahickon, Rose Valley, and Tannery). The only recent surface water sample in which asbestos fibers were detected was one taken from the reservoir in April 2006. The 2006-2007 air sampling data reviewed in this document do not indicate that people are exposed to asbestos at levels of health concern from contacting the surface water and generally playing, walking and fishing in the creeks. Historic sampling events did detect asbestos in surface waters near the Ambler site at higher levels. However, based on the most recent data which are most reflective of the current situation, ATSDR and PADOH do not see a public health asbestos exposure problem for children and adults having occasional recreational contact (e.g., fishing and swimming) in Wissahickon Creek or the other nearby creeks at this time. Therefore, fishing from the western side of the Wissahickon should not present public health concerns regarding asbestos exposure. However, it is the current understanding of ATSDR and PADOH that fishing from the eastern side of the Wissahickon is trespassing and is strongly discouraged.

    Top of page


  3. Why is EPA cleaning up the stream? Will EPA update its Health and Safety Plan (HASP) prior to the stream clean activities? (8-21-2009)

    After speaking with concerned residents and local organizations, EPA decided to evaluate the asbestos-containing material (ACM) that may be associated with the site down stream. EPA will address ACM downstream from the site following the stream bank stabilizations. EPA will update the HASP accordingly prior to the stream cleanup.

    Top of page


  4. Will the BoRit community receive a questionnaire similar to what was used at the Libby community? (8-13-2009)

    We believe that the questionnaire referenced is in regards to a health­ related questionnaire conducted at Libby and administered by phone through the National Opinion Research Corporation. Using a toll-free number, residents were able to call in at their convenience and complete the questions. The purpose of that questionnaire was to establish asbestos exposure histories in preparation for medical screenings that were conducted for Libby residents.
    There are important differences between the community asbestos exposures that occurred in Libby compared to Ambler, in addition to the medical services available to Libby residents compared to Ambler residents. For these reasons, different public health services have been conducted in these two communities.
    EPA recognizes that some members of the community have tried to compare the BoRit Asbestos Site to the Libby Asbestos Site in an effort to understand the differences between the two. The exposure pathways at Libby are different from those present at BoRit. At Libby, there are multiple active exposure pathways at the site. The vermiculite mine wastes, as well as off-specification intermediate asbestos-containing material, were made available to the community and were widely distributed to the Libby area. These materials were used as fill in yards, driveways, gardens, and many public areas. At BoRit, there is no documented evidence that a similar distribution of asbestos-containing materials occurred in the Ambler area. It is also important to emphasize at BoRit that, although residents may have been actively exposed to asbestos when the manufacturing facilities were in operation, there is currently no active exposure taking place in the area.
    To learn more about the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site, please visit http://www2.epa.gov/region8/libby-asbestos

    Top of page

  5. Will EPA test residential yards for asbestos? (8-13-2009)

    Residents in the Ambler area have expressed concerns about the possibility of having asbestos in their yards. To address these concerns, EPA is offering to conduct visual inspections upon the request of the property owner. Since the offer was made to the community in December 2008, EPA has received three requests to conduct visual inspections.

    Top of page


  6. What are the current risks at the BoRit site? (8-13-2009)

    Current Asbestos Exposure Via Air for Nearby Residents:

    Based on the air results to date, there is no current asbestos exposure to residents from the BoRit Site. The removal activities are mitigating potential releases to the environment. The removal activities are also addressing potential public health threats that might arise as a result of the removal activities. All data and documentation to support this has been shared with the Community Advisory Group (CAG) and EPA hosts weekly meetings with CAG members to keep them up-to-date on site activities.

    Prior to proposing the BoRit Site to the National Priorities List, EPA did conduct air sampling over a single 24-hour period on the site in Apri12006. The public health agencies' conclusions regarding these April 2006 samples were that these results were not sufficient to make a quantitative determination of health risks for off-site residents. However, this sampling did support the need for further investigation and evaluation of the BoRit Site based on the potential for public health concerns.

    EPA agreed with this public health recommendation and began a comprehensive air sampling program at the BoRit Site from October 2006 through September 2007. During this program, asbestos air samples were collected from locations on and off of the site, in different seasons, and under different weather conditions.

    Based on the results from EPA's October 2006-September 2007 samples, the public health agencies concluded that "the risks from the BoRit site for both on-site and off-site do not pose a substantial cancer risk when the waste material is left undisturbed. Under these conditions a public health hazard does not exist and the cancer risk for the site is classified as no apparent increase to low increased risk. Any changes to this site could alter this classification ... substantial increases in exposure can occur on-site when activities are disturbing the soil [at the site] ...At present the community has restricted access to the on-site sampling locations, off-site data do not indicate air transport of fibers, and on-site construction and soil disturbing activities are not occurring on a regular basis. The data strongly suggest that airborne asbestos could pose a threat to public health, should any of these conditions change."

    Current Asbestos Exposures Via Sediments/Streams for Nearby Residents

    EPA recognizes that some residents are concerned about exposures to surface waters and sediments contaminated with asbestos-containing material at the BoRit Site. EPA and the public health agencies have evaluated this pathway.

    There is general agreement in the scientific community that inhalation is the pathway of greatest exposure/risk concern for asbestos. We acknowledge that some of the soil, surface water, and sediment at the BoRit Site contains asbestos. However, the presence of contamination alone does not inherently imply risk. Unless the asbestos becomes airborne, we do not expect dermal or ingestion exposures to result in adverse health effects. To establish whether asbestos was becoming airborne from sediments and streams at the BoRit Site, EPA conducted personal air monitoring during sediment sampling activities. These results did not indicate a level of concern for recreational users of these waterways.

    Below is an excerpt from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) 2009 Health Consultation for the BoRit Site. The full report is available at:
    http://www.epaosc.org/sites/2475/files/borit hc 03-17-09.pdf
     
     “Is it safe for children and adults to have contact with creek waters and their sediments at this site?

    ATSDR and PADOH cannot advocate swimming in any unsupervised waterway, since there are no lifeguards to keep swimmers (both child and adult) safe from water levels that can change unexpectedly based on weather conditions. Furthermore, the public health agencies strongly discourage any contact with asbestos-containing material found on the site or in the streams.

    However, we do understand that members of the public recreate in these areas. The current environmental sampling data for sediments or streams (Wissahickon, Rose Valley, and Tannery) do not indicate that recreational contacts with these streams/sediments would be a problem based on the levels of exposure. Fibers have not been detected in any of EPA's 2006-2007 surface water samples taken from the streams (i.e., Wissahickon, Rose Valley, and Tannery).
    The only recent surface water sample in which asbestos fibers were detected was one taken from the reservoir in April 2006. The 2006-2007 air sampling data reviewed in this document do not indicate that people are exposed to asbestos at levels of health concern from contacting the surface water and generally playing, walking and fishing in the creeks. Historic sampling events did detect asbestos in surface waters near the Ambler site at higher levels. However, based on the most recent data which are most reflective of the current situation, ATSDR and PADOH do not see a public health asbestos exposure problem for children and adults having occasional recreational contact (e.g., fishing and swimming) in Wissahickon Creek or the other nearby creeks at this time. Therefore, fishing from the western side of the Wissahickon should not present public health concerns regarding asbestos exposure. However, it is the current understanding of ATSDR and PADOH that fishing from the eastern side of the Wissahickon is trespassing and is strongly discouraged."

    Top of page


  7. Will EPA identify where the waste may be located and will sampling be done where there are tide pools, eddy currents behind bridge abutments, obvious overflow ponding and deep water depressions where asbestos waste may have migrated? (8-10-2009)

    Although not finalized yet as part of the Site Management Plan for the Site, for the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study Phase I investigation, off-site soil and flood pain sediment sampling is planned. Phase II off-site sampling has not been determined at this time. EPA recognizes this comment and will consider including the described locations for future phases of the investigation.

    Top of page

  8. Under what circumstances will the EPA sample off of the Site during Phase I (e.g. the south side of the Wissahickon Creek flood plain)? (8-10-2009)

    Although not finalized yet as part of the Site Management Plan for the Site, as part of the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study Phase I investigation, EPA is planning to collect three surface soil samples from three areas on the other side of Wissahickon Creek from the Site. Grab samples are planned to be collected from 0-3 inches from three areas: midpoint across from the Park parcel, across from Rose Valley Creek, and across from the breached dam. Samples are to be analyzed for asbestos by polarized light microscopy, volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, pest/polychlorinated biphenyls, and metals.

    In addition, EPA is planning to collect floodplain sediment sample(s) areas on the other side of Wissahickon Creek across from the Asbestos Pile.

    Top of page


  9. Are there any grant programs from the Health Departments for a specialized X-Ray machine to be located in Ambler to help diagnose pleural plaques? (5-18-2009)

    The health agencies are currently looking into this question.

    Top of page


  10. Are there plans for putting out a fire on site after work begins and will fire trucks become contaminated with asbestos? (9-5-2008)

    Based on the site activities, the possibility of a fire is minimal. Nonetheless, we do have various fire extinguishers and a water truck on-site. However, if there is a fire and we cannot control it, we would call 911. We would expect municipal fire trucks to come on-site, if needed, and we would decontaminate them.

    Top of page


  11. Did the workmen wear personal protection equipment (PPE) while invasive operations are occurring? (9-5-2008)

    When the contractors first mobilized to the Site, asbestos awareness training was conducted on-site. A morning safety meeting is conducted every day. During this safety meeting, the tasks planned for the day are discussed with particular emphasis on potential safety hazards associated with those tasks. For example, airborne contaminants, ticks, slip/trip/fall and heat stress are hazards that may be encountered on a site like this. EPA's contractors have been wearing the necessary PPE as required by the Site Health & Safety Plan. In addition, based on the air data from the sampling events in 2007 and 2008, as well as recent data from site activities, neither the residents nor the workers are being exposed to asbestos levels that pose an unacceptable or significant health risk. This was determined by risk calculations conducted by toxicologists from both the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and EPA. This determination is based on the asbestos air sampling results and with guidance from Occupational Safety and Health Administration 1926.1101. The text of the guidance is detailed below:

    1926.1l01(c) (1) Time-weighted average limit (TWA), The employer shall ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of asbestos in excess of 0.1 f/cc of air as an eight hour TWA, as determined by the method prescribed in Appendix A to this section, or by an equivalent method.

    1926.1l01(c) (1) Excursion limit. The employer shall ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of asbestos in excess of 1.0 f/cc as averaged over a sampling period of thirty (30) minutes, as determined by the method prescribed in Appendix A to this section, or by an equivalent method.

    All data collected to date has been below those limits. Also, the cabin of the excavator is pressurized. However, to be on the side of safety, we have decided that during field activities, any contractor working inside the fence will wear Level C (hardhat, Tyvek suits, safety shoes and respirator).

    We also would like to clarify that the EPA removal action is not the "typical" building asbestos abatement. During a ''typical'' asbestos abatement, asbestos containing material (ACM) is removed from structures. EPA is not planning to remove asbestos, unless we determine that some of the larger pieces of ACM (pipes, etc.) cannot be properly and safely covered on-site.
    While we do not think this is likely, this could result in some of these larger pieces being sent off-site for disposal.

    Top of page


  12. Why are all the exposed areas not being covered temporarily at the end of the work day? (9-5-2008)

    The area on the Pile Property that was inadvertently exposed during the preparatory activities was covered within 48 hours. We have soil available to cover any exposed areas at the end of the day, and we are working to identify a tactifier (tacking agent) that can be used for soil cover as well. In addition, we will chip all the vegetation we are clearing and use it as mulch to cover exposed areas, if needed.

    Top of page


  13. Why are there men working at the park in suits? Do the residents across the Wissahickon need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE)? (9-5-2008)

    The workers on the site are wearing Level C protective equipment because that is a health and safety requirement for all EPA contractors while working on the site. There is no identified threat of exposure contamination to the community from the preparatory work we are conducting based on the air monitoring and sampling data EPA has collected. Therefore, there is no need for the residents west of the Park to wear PPE.

    Top of page


  14. Are short asbestos fibers considered to be a health threat/risk? (1-2008)

    The toxicity of asbestos appears to depend on both the mineral class (serpentine vs. amphibole) and particle size (length, width). Toxicological models based on animal studies appear to demonstrate that the most potent asbestos fibers are very long (greater than 40 um) and thin (less than 0.3 um).

    EPA utilized the Transmission Electron Microscopy method, which is a more sensitive method and counts shorter and narrower fibers. The binning method used by U.S. EPA to count asbestos fibers for risk assessment purposes counts fibers longer than 5 um. Taken together, the findings from the laboratory animal, epidemiologic, and in vitro studies suggest that short fibers may be pathogenic for pulmonary fibrosis. Further investigation is needed in to determine the possible association between short fibers and pulmonary interstitial fibrosis in humans and the impact of short fibers in regard to pleural changes, such as pleural plaques and diffuse pleural fibrosis. Although there is currently incomplete scientific data on the role of short fibers and health effects, public health agencies can still consider the sampling data on short fibers in the context of the information for the overall site in their evaluations.

    Top of page


  15. What goes into a risk assessment? On what basis is a risk-based decision made? (1-2008)

    Risk assessments follow a specific process that is put forth in guidance documents produced by U.S. EPA over the last 20 years. These documents provide guidance on exposure inputs, and describe how these parameters might apply to various receptors. After identifying possible receptors and related exposures, contaminant doses are calculated for site-specific scenarios and. compared to established toxicity criteria. These steps allow for the projection of potential risks. For cancer-causing chemicals, action is generally taken when the potential incremental risk of cancer due to site-related contaminants is greater than 1 in 10,000. For non-carcinogens, action is considered when the site-related dose is greater than the "safe dose," as determined by scientific studies appearing in the literature; this is described as a Hazard Index greater than 1.

    In summary, risk assessments generally estimate current and future potential risks to a variety of possible receptors (residents, workers, recreational visitors, trespassers, etc.) using upper-bound estimates of exposure and toxicity.  Remedial action is typically triggered when certain risk benchmarks, as described above, are exceeded. The conservative nature of this process allows U.S. EPA to ensure that individuals, including sensitive subpopulations, are protected against environmental contamination.

    Top of page


  16. When other sites do not make the National Priorities List what was done to make them safe? (1-2008)

    Unfortunately, there are no data to accurately assess this question for asbestos sites. For other types of sites with other contaminants, there have been variety of actions taken, including removal and offsite disposal, onsite consolidation and stabilization, treatment, encapsulation or a combination of these or other measures.

  17. How many non-worker cases of asbestos-related illness have been reported in the Ambler area? (1-2008)

    The Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) are preparing a health consultation for asbestos air monitoring data collected by EPA in 2006/2007. The health consultation will attempt to determine the public health significance of exposures to reported levels of asbestos in the 2006-2007 air samples. When this health consultation is finalized, PADOH and ATSDR will present their findings to the community.

    PADOH and ATSDR will collaborate with the Montgomery County Health Department, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and EPA to distribute this information to community members.

    General information on the health risks associated with asbestos was provided in a January 2007 PADOH/ATSDR fact sheet which was mailed to the Ambler community, distributed to physicians serving the community at two locally held grand rounds, and is currently available on EPA's BoRit website. PADOH and ATSDR plan to update the mesothelioma incidence data that was discussed at EPA's public meeting in 2007. This update will not be able to answer the question of how many non-worker cases of asbestos-related illness are in the community. The Pennsylvania Cancer Registry simply does not include the detailed information necessary to draw conclusions regarding the source of exposure. Also, the asbestos-related disease information that has been shared by the community to date has not been specific enough to draw conclusions about the type of exposure that led to the asbestos-related disease.

    Top of page


  18. If asbestos waste is covered with soil, can it work its way to the surface? (1-2008)

    It is not likely as long as it's not disturbed.

    Top of page


  19. Is there a minimum amount of soil cover that is recommended? (1-2008)

    The National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants requires either a soil cap of 18-24 inches or fencing/posting of the affected site.

    Top of page


  20. Will EPA coordinate with all of the health agencies involved to implement a more in-depth, health data collection protocol? (12-27-2007)

    EPA will continue to coordinate with the health agencies. The health agencies are reviewing/refining the mesothelioma data for the county and the Ambler zip code, and will publish this information in a publicly available report.

    Top of page


  21. Is non-cancer asbestos-related disease tracked? (12-27-2007)

    The health agencies only have data for cancer and mesothelioma rates. As asbestosis and other non-cancer asbestos-related diseases are not reportable, such a database does not exist.

  22. Will EPA look at non-occupational cases of asbestos disease? (12-27-2007)

    The health agencies have requested any available information related to non-occupational cases of asbestos-related disease in the community. EPA encourages community members to provide specific relevant information to EPA, or directly to the health agencies, so that further evaluation may be conducted.

  23. Will EPA continue to monitor and test the site? (12-27-2007)

    EPA intends to monitor the work done until establishment of the vegetative cover (i.e., one growing season or at least one year). EPA plans to evaluate the need for additional sampling. EPA will plan to take additional samples, if needed.

  24. Why were the cancer statistics presented based on one sampling event and not the average of all the air tests to date? (8-8-2007)

    The cancer statistics presented were not based on sampling events but rather on data gathered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Health outcome data reviews, in this case cancer incidence, are conducted independently of the results of individual air sampling data. Air sampling results are utilized, in as much as they are useful, to help determine the area of concern in which to study the cancer incidence. Cancer incidence and mesothelioma in particular have long latency periods (10 to 30 or more years); therefore, current air sampling results would not necessarily be reflective of past exposures, given the historical asbestos industry in this area, that occupational exposures and associated "take home" exposure to household contacts are likely the source of any asbestos related disease in this community.

    Top of page


  25. Is the 19002 zip code the best way to identify asbestos exposures? (8-8-2007)

    The Pennsylvania Department of Health feels that the 19002 zip code is the most valid method of evaluating exposures associated with the BoRit Asbestos Site.

    Top of page


  26. Given the fact that there was a very large asbestos operation here, who operated for 80 years, would an increase in asbestos related deaths be expected? (8-8-2007)

    The Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) concurs that with the duration and extent of asbestos operations and with (historically) limited use of personal protection for asbestos workers; that former asbestos workers and their household contacts may be at increased risk of developing asbestos related diseases. Due to statistical reasons, PADOH's cancer incidence review was prepared for the period 1996 to 2003, this time frame will not reflect the burden of asbestos related cancer prior to 1996, which may have been significant due to the many years of asbestos operations. Results including the recently available 2004 data are similar to those previously reported.

    For the 1996 - 2004 time frame, PADOH found that the number of new cancer cases for all types of cancer is less than expected when comparing the Ambler zip code to the rest of Pennsylvania. The incidence of mesothelioma is more than expected but not statistically significant. This means that while there are more cases when compared to statewide rates, they are in the range of what is commonly accepted as normal variation or less than a 95% significant level. A 95% significance level means there is less than a 1 in 20 chance that the results are elevated due to random variation or chance. In this case, none of the cancer rates for the Ambler zip code are higher than what would be expected allowing for normal variation. In other words, the zip code analysis does not point to a pattern of elevated cancer risk in the Ambler zip code but is consistent with the known history of asbestos exposure. PADOH will continue to collect and update this review/analysis.

    With limited historical environmental sampling data, we have no valid method to evaluate the past health implications of the waste piles of asbestos containing material, including the BoRit Asbestos Site. In an effort to raise awareness within the health care community about asbestos in the environment and to aid in the evaluation of potentially exposed patients, PADOH collaborated with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Montgomery County Medical Society, the Montgomery County Health Department, and the EPA in conducting two Grand Round presentations entitled, "Case Studies in Environmental Medicine: Asbestos Toxicity". The seminar was presented by Dr. Vikas Kapil, Senior Medical Director, Department of Health Studies, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to approximately 60 local physicians and health care providers. If any resident would like the information discussed in these sessions forwarded to their primary care provider, please contact Barbara Allerton, Nursing Services Consultant with PADOH at (717) 346-3285. ATSDR and PADOH are currently evaluating the recent environmental sampling data to ensure that there are no current exposures occurring in the community and, if present, will make recommendations to eliminate any ongoing route(s) of exposure. This evaluation will be published by ATSDR in a Health Consultation for the site.

    Top of page


  27. Does EPA recognize that the Site represents a potential health hazard? (3-12-2007)
     
    Yes. In fact, the primary reason that EPA is assessing the Site is to determine if there is a complete exposure pathway between known asbestos contamination on-site and to evaluate the potential risk associated with a complete exposure pathway. Based on the October and November 2006 ambient air sampling results collected to date, residents in the vicinity of the BoRit Site are not being exposed to asbestos fibers from the Site at levels that pose an unacceptable or significant health risk.

    For more health-related information about what was found in past sampling events in the town of Ambler, read the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Record of Activity posted on the BoRit website.

    Top of page


  28. How can EPA conclude that there is no risk to public health and safety at this time? (3-12-2007)

    EPA recognizes that the Site represents a potential health hazard due to the presence of asbestos-containing material. However, based upon the October and November 2006 ambient air sampling results, EPA can conclude, at this time, that residents in the vicinity of the BoRit Site are not being exposed to asbestos fibers from the Site at levels that pose an unacceptable or significant health risk. EPA's final conclusions will not be made until the remaining seasonal samples are collected.

    At the time EPA calculated the human health risk and drew its conclusion, EPA had all validated results from air, soil, water and sediments. EPA's actions are taken based on validated results, which are available to the public on EPA's BoRit website. The raw data will be made available once it is converted to a public document.

    For historical information about when higher exposure levels existed, see the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Record of Activity, posted on EPA's BoRit website.

    Top of page


  29. What is a health screening study and is one being done for residents in the vicinity of the site?  (3-12-2007)

    Health screening surveys can be done to gather additional medical information related to exposure to asbestos or other contaminants. Public health agencies, such as the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) are responsible for determining if health screenings are needed. Health screening cannot replace individual follow up with personal physicians. ATSDR and PADOH do not provide direct medical care, although they are available to consult with your physician as requested.

    There are no current plans to conduct a health screening survey in the Ambler community at this time, but public health agencies are collecting targeted information on non­-occupationally related mesothelioma cases in the area.

    ATSDR and PADOH will produce a Public Health Consultation for this Site. The health consultation will be available to the public and will determine the public health significance of exposures and include appropriate follow up recommendations for the community, if necessary.

    Top of page


  30. What should residents do if they think they have been exposed to asbestos? (3-12-2007)

    The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) recommend concerned citizens discuss their exposure history with a family doctor who would be in the best position to assess their potential for harmful health effects.
     
    PADOH, ATSDR, and the Montgomery County Health Department are collaborating with the Montgomery County Medical Society to increase knowledge and awareness among physicians and in the community about past exposure scenarios and actions that can reduce harmful health effects from asbestos.

  31. What is the role of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) at the site, and what is the basis for ATSDR's conclusions and findings about the site? (3-12-2007)

    ATSDR is a separate federal public health agency within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ATSDR is providing technical support to EPA, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and stakeholders. EPA has asked ATSDR to evaluate sampling data from the BoRit Site to determine if exposure to site-related contaminants is causing or could cause adverse health effects in the community.

    There was a specific question from the public regarding an ATSDR December 2006 document.
    EPA posted the Record of Activity (ROA) health consultation for the BoRit Asbetos Site on EPA’s BoRit website. The ROA attempted to provide a comprehensive review of the history of sampling efforts and public health conclusions relevant to the current BoRit investigations.

    Top of page


  32. Do fencing and signs provide sufficient protection at the site, given the results of the tests performed by EPA?  (3-12-2007)

    Based on the current sampling data, yes. Fencing and signage are there to prevent people from entering the Site and being exposed to contamination. The asbestos can be a threat to people if they get onto the Site and disturb the soil, as demonstrated by the activity­-based sampling conducted in November of 2006.   

  33. Would EPA be satisfied with the data if their own children were growing up in Ambler or the nearby communities?  (3-12-2007)

    Yes. EPA has a great deal of scientific experience and expertise that gives us comfort and credibility to make sound public safety recommendations. Based on our samples at Site to date, residents in the vicinity of the BoRit Site are not being exposed to asbestos fibers from the Site at levels that pose an unacceptable or significant health risk.

    Top of page


  34. How did the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) come to its public health conclusions and what was their reasoning for analyzing health information based only the Ambler zip code? (3-12-2007)

    PADOH evaluated the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry's cancer incidence data that was reported for the Ambler zip code (19002) and compared it to the incidence rates for the Commonwealth.

    The cancer incidence or number of new cancer cases for all types of cancer is less than expected when comparing Ambler to the rest of Pennsylvania, for the period 1996 to 2003. PADOH will continue to collect and update this review/analysis.

    None of the types of cancer are statistically significantly elevated (i.e., at the 95% significance level) when compared to the rest of the state. A 95% significance level means there is less than a 1 in 20 chance that the results are elevated due to random variation or chance. In this case, none of the cancer rates for the Ambler zip code are higher than what would be expected, allowing for normal variation.

    PADOH presented the Ambler zip code because it was felt that it best reflects the community surrounding the BoRit Asbestos Site. PADOH did analyze cancer incidence in the adjacent zip codes to the Ambler zip code, and mesothelioma incidence was not statistically significant. However, a preliminary state-wide analysis has identified several statistically significant mesothelioma zip codes, but these results need to be confirmed with additional data analysis. This work is ongoing. The results of a 1996 - 2004 analysis will be presented when they are available, and the findings may vary.

    Top of page


  35. Will EPA conduct health screening for residents in the vicinity of the Site? (1-24-2007)

    EPA does not do health screening. Health screening, if necessary, is conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) and/or the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). EPA consulted with PADOH and ATSDR in responding to this question.

    The health agencies and EPA are aware that there is an interest in health screenings (e.g., medical monitoring for asbestos exposures such as X-rays, CT scans, etc.) at this site. Health agencies are often asked to conduct health studies or screenings in neighborhoods surrounding former industrial sites such as the BoRit Asbestos Site. In order to consider conducting such additional investigations, health agencies need a possible outcome that would reduce or eliminate a current exposure or mitigate the effects of a past exposure.

    Based on the EPA's preliminary findings in the community surrounding the Site, there is apparently no current or ongoing exposure to asbestos at a level at which health agencies expect to see harmful health effects. Additional rounds of community sampling data are needed to confirm this conclusion. PADOH and ATSDR will conduct a review of all of EPA's most recent community sampling data and produce a publicly available Health Consultation document after the complete sampling data results are available. PADOH and ATSDR will make any appropriate follow up recommendations for the community (i.e., including addressing the need for health screenings or additional health statistics outcome studies), if necessary at that time.

    ATSDR does not provide direct medical care. The purpose of screening health study events, when they are conducted by public health agencies, is to provide additional information about exposures not available through other means. Screening health studies cannot replace individual follow up with personal physicians.

    We can see from the historical information available now that former workers, household contacts of former workers, and former or current residents who lived near the asbestos manufacturing plant may have been exposed to airborne asbestos at a level of health concern. Health agencies recommend concerned citizens discuss their possible exposure history with their family doctor who is in the best position to assess their potential for harmful health effects. Preventative health actions such as reducing exposure to smoke, second-hand smoke, and radon and getting an annual flu shot can greatly reduce health risks for individuals with asbestos-related lung disease.

    PADOH, ATSDR, and Montgomery County Health Department are collaborating with the Montgomery County Medical Society to increase awareness among physicians and in the community about past exposure scenarios and actions that can reduce harmful health effects. For example, on March 14th, an ATSDR physician with expertise in asbestos and asbestos-related disease will be conducting two physician-­oriented "asbestos grand rounds" in Montgomery County.

    Top of page


  36. What is the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s (ATSDR) role at the site and what are their conclusions and findings? (1-24-2007)

    ATSDR wrote its Record of Activity, posted on EPA's website, to try to provide in one place a review of the history of sampling efforts and public health conclusions relevant for the current BoRit investigations. ATSDR was not trying to discount past investigations. Rather, one of the points ATSDR was trying to emphasize in this document was ATSDR's conclusion that despite all the changes in sampling techniques, that under certain, worst case conditions

    ATSDR finds that there was the potential for local levels of air borne asbestos of concern in the past. Therefore, ATSDR finds support for the steps EPA is now taking to further evaluate the conditions at the BoRit Site and for the public health agency plans to perform health education activities with health professionals in the area.

    Top of page


  37. What is the source of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s (PADOH) cancer information and what was their reasoning for analyzing only the Ambler zip code? (1-24-2007)

    PADOH evaluated the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry's cancer incidence data that was reported for the Ambler zip code (19002) and compared it to the incidence rates for the Commonwealth.

    The cancer incidence or number of new cancer cases (for all types of cancer) is less than expected when comparing Ambler to the rest of Pennsylvania, for the period 1996 to 2003. None of the types of cancer are statistically significantly elevated (at the 95% significance level) when compared to the rest of the state. A 95% significance level means there is a less than a 1 in 20 chance that the results are elevated due to random variation or chance. In this case, none of the cancer rates for the Ambler zip code are higher than what would be expected, allowing for normal variation.

    Top of page


  38. What do state and federal health agencies say regarding claims of increased cancer rates in the Ambler area?  (9-2006)
     
    The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) both looked at health data for the Ambler area from 1985-2002. They saw no evidence of higher rates for bronchus and lung cancer, indicating that several rates were lower for Zip Code area 19002 compared to statewide data. PADOH plans to produce separate tabulations and rates for mesothelomia when running their PA Zip Code Area Cancer Database in January 2006, when the 2003 cancer data becomes available.

    Top of page


  39. What can residents do to ensure their safety? (9-2006)

    Heed the warning signs and do not remove them and do not trespass on these sites. Call the police if you see anyone cutting holes in the fence, tearing down warning signs or unlawfully gaining access to any of these sites. If you observe visible emissions on or coming from these sites, please report what you see to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (PADEP) complaint service representative ­ http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/northeast_regional_office/13779/environmental_complaints/617080

    Top of page


  40. Can either the PADEP or EPA guarantee that kids are not trespassing and causing airborne fiber?

    The requirement for fencing ACM that has not been capped is contained within the asbestos NESHAP, which acknowledges fencing as a universally recognized notice that property contained within is restricted.  These parcels are currently fenced and posted to inform would-be trespassers of potential risk, and there is no evidence of ongoing trespasser activity.  PADEP Air Quality Program and EPA Superfund Program staff continue to monitor the parcels in question.

    EPA's air toxics regulation for asbestos is intended to minimize the release of asbestos fibers during activities involving the handling of asbestos.  The air toxics provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) require EPA to develop and enforce regulations to protect the public from exposure to airborne contaminants that are known to be hazardous to human health. In accordance with Section 112 of the CAA, EPA establishes National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). EPA promulgated the Asbestos NESHAP, currently found in 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart M.

    Top of page

  41. Could the building rubble left in the remnant of the old factory closest to Chestnut Street contain a lot of contamination? How about the building rubble lying back there along the street?

    After the removal of the ACM, the buildings were then demolished.  The debris was tested and managed as construction debris.  It is anticipated that any remaining debris would fall under the same waste classification.

    Top of page

Region 3 | Cleanup in Region 3 | Cleanup - Where You Live | EPA Home | EPA Cleanup Homepage


Local Navigation







Jump to main content.