The Allied Chemical Plant in Wyoming was one of several facilities operated by Allied Chemical Corporation (later AlliedSignal, and subsequently Honeywell). The facility is today operated by General Chemical Industrial Products, though the address of the facility is still on Allied Chemical Road in Green River, Wyoming.
Soda Ash Facility
The main business of the Wyoming facility was (under Allied Chemical) and remains the production of soda ash. Also known as sodium carbonate, soda ash is an important industrial chemical with a wide variety of applications, including the production of low-cost glass.
Soda ash is mined as an ore known as trona and processed to create sodium carbonate. While there are chemical industrial processes to produce soda ash, it is often more cost effective to mine the ore and process it on-site. This is the case with the Green River plant.
Corporate History of Allied Chemical
Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation was formed in 1920. It was an alliance of five smaller chemical companies that had been doing business in the United States since the 19th Century. The success of the business venture resulted in growth, and in 1928 a synthetic ammonia plant in Hopewell, Virginia, became the world's leading producer of that chemical. Growth continued through the wartime period and post-war era.
Allied purchased Bendix in 1983, and this proved a lucrative venture. Bendix specialized in aerospace equipment and automotive parts, and by 1984, Bendix was generating 50 percent of Allied's income.
In 1985, Allied merged with Signal Companies, adding to the aerospace manufacturing division and creating a juggernaut in the industry.
In 1999, the company known as AlliedSignal acquired Honeywell. In addition to consumer goods, Honeywell was a major manufacturer of aerospace technology because of its acquisition of Sperry Aerospace in 1986. The group took the name Honeywell because it was more recognizable than AlliedSignal. The merger was valued at $15 billion.
Asbestos and the Allied Chemical Plant in Wyoming
For the majority of the 1900s, when heat or flame was a risk, various forms of asbestos were used as a building material. Plants such as the Allied Chemical Plant in Wyoming, therefore, were frequently made with materials that contained asbestos. Resistance to reactive chemicals is another property of some kinds of asbestos. As a result, asbestos was utilized in protective garments, counter tops and coating materials. One of the ironic things about asbestos is that although it does a fine job of guarding against the harm associated with combustion and heat - it is one of the best insulators known and has been used for this purpose throughout history - at the same time it poses significant risks to human well being.
Amosite was most often the type of asbestos utilized in these facilities. Amosite is one of the amphibole forms of the asbestos family of minerals and is generally considered more prone to cause disease than the serpentine form. Used for many years in the form of asbestos transite in laboratories and refineries across the country, amosite was finally disallowed for construction purposes in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite had properties like cement; it could be laminated and molded into working surfaces. Generally, new items built with transite were considered innocuous since the asbestos particles were encapsulated in the transite. However, when transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) aged, it was prone to becoming powdery, which enabled the lethal, microscopic fibers to float into the atmosphere. Asbestos when it is in this condition is considered friable, which means easy to pulverize. Laboratory ovens also often were fabricated with friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.
Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad
Asbestos particles, when they are friable, are easily released into the environment. Inhaling asbestos fibers can result in diseases such as cancer or asbestosis. Pleural mesothelioma, an unusual but frequently deadly disease affecting the mesothelium (the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity), has been shown to be linked with exposure to asbestos. Pericardial and peritoneal mesothelioma are caused by the ingestion of fibers of asbestos, which happens when the microscopic particles float in the air and land on food or in beverages.
In the past few decades scientists and researchers have uncovered much information concerning the risks that accompany being exposed to asbestos, and therefore there are strict guidelines regulating its use. However, when facilities such as the Allied Chemical Plant in Wyoming were built, asbestos was much more prevalent. Before present-day rules were enacted, employees often labored without protective equipment in environments where asbestos particles filled the air.
The Time Bomb
In contrast to typical on-the-job injuries, which are easily observed and known about soon after the incident, asbestos cancer can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to manifest. Given such a lag between asbestos exposure and the appearance of the resulting disease, a worker might not connect his or her current health problem with work done 10 or more years earlier. People who worked at or lived around facilities like the Allied Chemical Plant in Wyoming should, accordingly, inform their doctors about the possibility of exposure to asbestos. Moreover, family members and others who shared homes with these people are also in danger; unless effective decontamination protocols, including using on-site uniforms and showers, were enforced, it was easy for employees to bring particles of asbestos on their persons or their clothes.Sources
AlliedSignal - Corporate History
General Chemical - Green River Soda Ash Facility
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal