Roswell Industrial Air Center
The Roswell Industrial Air Center has been in operation as a city-owned, public use airport since the late 1960s. The Air Center is located just outside of Roswell, New Mexico, and serves as an airport for Mesa Airlines (operated by Air Midwest).
The airport, however, is not the only purpose that the Roswell Industrial Air Center serves. Additionally, a firework factory, a plastic manufacturer, a candy manufacturing company, and a bus factory have operations onsite. Buildings are also used by the New Mexico National Guard and by companies that store aircraft prior to making repairs or refurbishments.
Prior to becoming the Roswell Industrial Air Center, this facility was used by the United States military. Land was acquired in 1941 from a New Mexico rancher in order to develop a training facility for military pilots. From its opening in 1941 until 1948, it was known as the Roswell Army Air Field. During this time, the oft-talked about Roswell UFO incident occurred, and those working on the base responded.
In 1948, the base was renamed for General Kenneth Newton Walker - a New Mexico native who was killed during a bombing mission over Papua New Guinea in 1943 - and became known as "Walker Air Force Base." During both World War II and the Cold War, a variety of units were stationed at the base. This continued until the late 1960s, when the US Air Force closed the base in an effort to reduce expenses and cover the costs of the Vietnam War. Development of the Roswell Industrial Air Center occurred after the base closed on June 30, 1967.
Chemical Plants and Asbestos
In almost all of the last century, in cases where combustion or heat was a danger, the mineral called asbestos was chosen as insulation. Chemical processing facilities like Roswell Industrial Air Center, as a result, were frequently constructed using asbestos-containing materials. A lesser-known property of various kinds of asbestos is that they resist chemicals. Ceiling tiles, insulation, counter tops, even protective uniforms, therefore, often contained the fibrous mineral. And though the asbestos worked well in safeguarding against fire damage and in protecting lives from excessive temperatures, it also exposed people who used it or worked around it to serious health risks.
In general, amosite was the type of asbestos used. Amosite is one of the amphibole varieties of the asbestos family of minerals and is generally considered more likely to result in health problems than serpentine asbestos. This amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, was used in laboratories and refineries throughout the United States for many years before being banned for construction purposes in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite displayed properties like cement; it could be laminated and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork. Generally, new items made with transite were considered safe because the asbestos particles were trapped in the transite. With age, however, this transite grows prone to becoming powdery, enabling microscopic fibers to flake off into the air. That is, such asbestos is friable, or able to be pulverized by hand pressure alone. The insulation lining of industrial ovens also almost always contained friable asbestos.
Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad
Friable asbestos is dangerous since in this form the particles can be easily dispersed in the air. If someone breathes these fibers, they can damage the lungs, causing asbestosis or cancer. Mesothelioma, an unusual and frequently lethal cancer affecting the mesothelium (the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity), is strongly linked with asbestos exposure. If the particles of asbestos in the air settle on food or in beverages and are then swallowed, pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma can result, although they are rarer than pleural mesothelioma.
Mounting pressure from the press and activist groups resulted in laws regulating the use of asbestos. Asbestos use was more prevalent, however, when facilities like Roswell Industrial Air Center were built. Before modern laws were put into place, workers frequently toiled without respirators in spaces where asbestos dust filled the atmosphere.
Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger
Asbestos cancer, unlike many on-the-job injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to manifest. With such a long time between exposure and the manifestation of symptoms, the worker may not even associate the current condition with work done up to 40 years earlier. Men and women that were employed by or lived near places such as Roswell Industrial Air Center should, accordingly, tell their physicians about the chance of exposure to asbestos. Experimental ways to combat mesothelioma cancer are being discovered, and early detection provides patients and their doctors the best chance of beating the once always-fatal form of cancer.
City of Roswell - Airport
Roswell Air Center
Statemaster - Roswell Industrial Air Center
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal
Walker Air Force Base Museum - Website