Asbestos Exposure and Chemical Plants
Asbestos was used in chemical plants to protect workers from high-heat environments. The material was durable and could withstand heat and fire, making it a desirable material in large-scale chemical manufacturing. Asbestos can still be found in dozens of chemical plants today, leaving many at risk of occupational exposure.
Asbestos was used in construction and insulation materials until 1980, but chemical plant operators, chemical engineers, maintenance workers and other staff may still be exposed to asbestos when working at a chemical plant today. Among the health risks of asbestos exposure are mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos Use at Chemical Plants
Asbestos is resistant to heat, fire and chemical reactions, so it was heavily used on jobsites where high levels of reactions and heat could be found. Many chemical plants contain asbestos in construction materials, as well as in machinery like pumps and boilers to control heat. The mineral could also be found in cement, around pipes for insulation and even in workers’ protective clothing and equipment.
Research has shown that chemical plants and oil refineries utilized asbestos similarly in their buildings and processes. Chrysotile asbestos, which was once thought to be “good asbestos,” was most commonly found in petrochemical industries. In one 1991 study, chrysotile fibers were present in 40% of 398 samples across the industry. It also was found in combination with other forms of asbestos throughout construction, including asbestos insulation and protective materials. Asbestos is still present across dozens of chemical plant sites, leaving many workers at risk of being exposed today.
The following chemical plants in the United States have asbestos products present on their jobsite, leading to exposure.
- Allied Chemical Corp
- Calabama Chemical Company
- Ciba Geigy Chemical Company
- Diamond Shamrock Chemicals
- Kerr Mcgee Chemical Corporation
- Olin Mathieson Chemical
- Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation
- Stauffer Chemical Company
- Allied Chemical Plant California
- Naugatuck Chemical Company
- Uniroyal, Inc
- Hercules Powder Company
- Petro Chemical Products
- Irwin Chemical Company
- USI Chemical Co.
- Harcros Chemical Company
- CONDEA Vista Chemical
- Olin Corporation
- Union Chemical Company
- Dow Chemical Plant
- Industrial Liquid Chemical Company
- Roswell Industrial Air Center
- DuPont Yerkes Plant
- Borden Chemical Company
- Chevron Chemical Fertilizer Plant
- Chipman Chemical
- Georgia-Pacific Resin Plant
- Pennwalt Sodium Chlorate Plant
- Portland Gas and Coke Company
- Rhone-Poulenc Chemical Plant
- Stauffer Chemical Plant Oregon
- Dytex Chemical Company
- Shell Oil Refinery
- Texaco Oil Refinery Washington
- Allied Chemical Plant Wyoming
- Standard Oil Refinery
- Stauffer Chemical Plant Wyoming
- Texaco Oil Refinery Wyoming
Chemical Plant Workers and Mesothelioma Risk
Those who work in chemical plants are at risk of developing conditions such as mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses as a direct result of exposure on the job. When left undisturbed, asbestos is not deemed hazardous, but wear and tear to machinery, aging building materials on site and use of asbestos clothing can cause chemical workers to be exposed.
Although not all employees handle asbestos materials directly, they can break down over time and create asbestos dust that is released into the atmosphere. Fibers can then be inhaled directly, and even family members may be exposed through secondary exposure from an individual who has asbestos fibers on their clothing or equipment. To help mitigate the risk of developing mesothelioma from asbestos exposure, agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created laws and regulations to protect workers from exposure, such as preventing workers from wearing asbestos-containing protective clothing and requiring the use of respirators for employees who are knowingly working with asbestos.
Author: Tara Strand
Senior Content WriterRead about Tara
Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli
Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their FamiliesRead about Jennifer
Finkelstein M. Maintenance work and asbestos‐related cancers in the refinery and petrochemical sector. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. January 1999.
Lilis R. Asbestos Disease in Maintenance Workers of the Chemical Industry. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. December 1979.
Nicholson W. Occupational exposure to asbestos: Population at risk and projected mortality‐1980–2030. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 1982.