Roswell Park Cancer Institute

The Roswell Park Cancer Institute was established in 1898 by Doctor Roswell Park under the patronage of the New York State Department of Health. Originally called the New York State Pathological Laboratory, it was the world’s first center for the study and treatment of cancer. In 1904, the institute administered the world’s first chemotherapy program, and in 1911, it changed its name to the New York State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases. The State Department of Health honored Dr. Park’s contributions to the institute in 1946 when it was renamed Roswell Park Cancer Institute. In 1947, Doctors Carl Cori and Gerty Cori were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their research into carbohydrate metabolism. In 1997, the New York State Legislature reorganized Roswell Park into a non-profit public benefit corporation in order to allow the institute to be more competitive against larger, corporate run health care facilities in Western New York. Roswell Park currently maintains a teaching affiliation with the University at Buffalo’s medical school. Located on Elm and Carlton Streets in downtown, Buffalo, the Roswell Park campus consists of fifteen buildings on twenty-five acres of land.

Up until the late 1970s, asbestos was incorporated into dozens of building materials utilized during construction and maintenance procedures at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Joint compound, block insulation, pipe covering, insulating cement and fireproof insulation contained asbestos. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer or other asbestos-related diseases.

Fireproof insulation was applied to the structural steel throughout Roswell Park in order to protect the steel from potential fire damage. Fireproof insulation was manufactured as a dry mixture and it was packaged in large paper bags. The fireproofing material was poured into a machine, mixed with water and sprayed onto the structural steel. Spraying and mixing fireproof insulation emitted clouds of asbestos-containing dust and fibers, which workers inhaled.

Drywall finishers utilized asbestos-containing joint compound (mud) in order to fill seams between sheets of drywall. Joint compound was manufactured as either a dry mix or a ready-mix. Dry joint compound was mixed with water in order to prepare it for application. Pouring and mixing dry joint compound released asbestos dust and fibers into the air. After joint compound was applied to the drywall seams and dried, it was sanded down to a smooth surface to prepare it for paint. These processes caused asbestos dust to become airborne and inhaled by workers in the surrounding area.

Steam boilers provided heat and hot water for Roswell Park. In order for the steam system to operate efficiently, boilers, pipes, valves and pumps within the system were covered with asbestos-containing insulation. Workers removed and applied insulation during maintenance or repair procedures. Removing and applying asbestos-containing insulation emitted asbestos dust into the air. Many workers were completely unaware of the dangers of exposure to asbestos dust, and they performed their work without masks or protective gear.

Inhaling dust and particles from the application and maintenance of asbestos-containing materials placed workers at risk for developing serious health problems. Even those who were not in direct contact with asbestos materials remain at risk for the development of asbestos-related diseases. If you or a loved one were once employed in connection with construction or maintenance projects at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.