In 1971, Young Refining Corporation took control of an oil refining facility in Douglasville, Georgia. This facility had previously been operated since the mid-1950s by Cracker Asphalt. The Young Refining Corporation produced a variety of petroleum-based products and, throughout their operation of the facility, faced a number of challenges.
First, in the same year as the Young Refining Corporation began operating the plant a lawsuit was filed by a rail worker who was injured when stepping on greasy pipes adjacent to a railroad spur at the refinery. Oil spills and leaks had occurred; however the courts found that the plaintiff assumed risk working on the property and found in favor of the refinery owners.
Five years later in 1976, Young Refining was forced to end their practice of the disposal of liquefied waste materials. Improper methods of disposal that were used by the refinery were deemed to allow for high levels of toxic emissions.
Additionally, Young Refining was cited by the ATSDR - the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry - after the organization was called in to investigate plant conditions. The agency found a number of environmental issues, including leaking and ill-maintained storage tanks, buried waste materials and a high level of toxic emissions that were the result of hazardous materials being burned. Ultimately, the refinery was deemed to be a polluter and a danger to employees and the surrounding community.
Young Refining and Asbestos
For the greater part of the 20th century, whenever extreme temperature or fire was a concern, various forms of asbestos were chosen as a building material. As a result, it was usual for oil refineries like Young Refining to be constructed with asbestos-containing materials. Resistance to chemical reactions is another property of some forms of amphibole asbestos. Because of this, asbestos was utilized in safety clothes, bench tops and coating materials. There is no doubt that asbestos was great at protecting against flames or high temperatures. This benefit, however, was accompanied by a horrible price in terms of human health.
Amosite was most often the variety of asbestos utilized in such locations. Amosite is one of the amphibole varieties of the asbestos family of minerals, which is commonly considered more apt to cause disease than the serpentine form. Used for decades in the form of asbestos transite in chemical plants, refineries and labs throughout the US, amosite was eventually banned in building materials in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite displayed qualities like cement; it could be sprayed onto ductwork and pipes and laminated. This form of asbestos did not offer a health hazard so long as it was solid. As this transite grows older and become prone to becoming powdery, however, deadly, microscopic fibers can flake off into the atmosphere. In this state, it is considered friable, which means easily crushed. Industrial ovens also frequently were constructed with friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.
Why Is Friable Asbestos Dangerous?
When they are friable, asbestos particles are readily dispersed into the air. Breathing asbestos particles can lead to conditions such as cancer or asbestosis. Another rare, and often lethal, asbestos-related disease is a type of cancer called mesothelioma. The pleural form of the illness, which affects the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity, is the most common. Peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma result from the ingestion of fibers of asbestos, which can occur when microscopic particles are released into the air and settle on food or in beverages.
During the last few decades medical researchers have learned much information concerning the risks that accompany being exposed to asbestos; as a result there are stringent laws regulating its use. When facilities such as Young Refining were first operating, however, asbestos was much more commonplace. Any asbestos that remains from that period may yet pose danger if people are not careful during remodeling projects.
Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger
In contrast to many on-the-job injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, asbestos-related illnesses may take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to develop. It can also be challenging to diagnose asbestos-related disorders since the symptoms resemble those of other disorders. It is extremely important, therefore, that folks who worked in or spent much time around places like Young Refining ask their physicians for mesothelioma information. Such information can help physicians to make a timely diagnosis; especially with mesothelioma, the earlier it is caught, the higher the chances of survival or potential treatments like mesothelioma surgery.
Highbeam.com - US Refineries and Capacities by State as of January 1, 2002
Open Jurist - US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling for Young Refining Corporation
Ravensworth - US Oil Refineries
Scorecard.org - Environment Release Report for Young Refining Corp.
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal