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Borden Chemical Plant

In 1857, Gail Borden founded a company that primarily produced condensed milk and other various food products. Over the years the company expanded to produce several food and beverage products, as well as consumer and industrial products, such as wallpapers, glues and resins. The company is most well-known for its Borden Condensed Milk, Elmer's Glue and Krazy Glue.

Adhesives and Formaldehyde Production

As part of the commercial and industrial segment of the company, Borden began producing adhesives. A large amount of Borden's customer base was centered around the forestry industry, which used the casein adhesives to strengthen plywood and coat paper. Over the years, Borden developed several types of adhesives including formaldehyde, urea, an adhesive made from animal urine, and phenol. In the 1950s, Borden became the largest adhesive supplier to the lumber industry. The Borden Company's chemical division continued to grow and in 1968 was renamed Borden Chemical Inc.

Borden Chemical transitioned from producing synthetic adhesives into the raw chemical business. As a result, the company decided to build a formaldehyde plant in Springfield, Oregon. Borden Chemical found success in formaldehyde production and constructed four other production plants, three within the United States and one in Brazil. Borden Chemical became one of the largest producers of formaldehyde in the United States by the late 1980s.

Change of Ownership

After the company suffered years of financial difficulties it was sold in 1995 to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR). In 2004, Borden Chemical was purchased from KKR by a private equity firm called Apollo Management. In 2005, Borden Chemical merged with Resolution Specialty Materials, Resolution Performance Products and Bakelite AG, a German company, to form Hexion Specialty Chemicals. Hexion is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, and has several offices and production plants around the world.

Asbestos in Borden Chemical's Springfield Plant

During most of the 1900s, various forms of asbestos were chosen as a building material when flames or excessive heat was a danger. Facilities such as Borden Chemical formaldehyde plant in Springfield, Oregon, therefore, were usually built using asbestos-containing materials. Resistance to chemical reactions is another property of some forms of amphibole asbestos. Due to the type of work that occurs at chemical plants, asbestos, accordingly, was not only used in plant structures, but also in safety clothes, lab equipment and bench tops. And although the asbestos worked well in safeguarding against fire damage and in protecting life and property from extreme temperatures, it also exposed people who used it or worked around it to serious health risks.

Much of this asbestos was of the amosite variety. Amosite is one of the amphibole forms of the asbestos family of minerals, which is commonly thought to be more apt to result in disease than the serpentine form. Used for many years in the form of asbestos-containing transite in laboratories and oil refineries across the United States, amosite was finally disallowed in building materials in the 1970s.

Like cement, asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces, laminated and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes. As long as asbestos transite was solid, this form of asbestos posed no immediate hazard. As transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) gets older and become prone to becoming powdery, however, deadly, microscopic particles can flake off into the atmosphere. When it is in this state, it is considered friable, which translates to easy to pulverize. Also, industrial kilns often were constructed with friable asbestos in insulation linings.

The Problem with Friable Asbestos

Asbestos particles, when friable, are readily dispersed in the environment. Medical conditions like asbestosis and cancer are known to result from the inhalation of asbestos. In addition, inhaling asbestos is known to be the leading causal factor of mesothelioma, a rare but often deadly disease of the mesothelium, which is the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, which is easy to do when the microscopic particles are released into the air and land on food or in drinks, may result in pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.

Because medical research yielded more understanding of asbestos' serious effects on human health, workers today enjoy the protection of strict guidelines regulating the use of asbestos. Asbestos use was much more commonplace, however, when chemical plants like Borden Chemical's Springfield, Oregon, formaldehyde plant were built. Before modern regulations were enacted, employees frequently toiled without respirators or other safety gear in spaces where asbestos dust clouded the atmosphere.

The Lurking Hazard of Asbestos

As opposed to many workplace injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the incident, asbestos cancer can take many, many years to develop. The symptoms of asbestos-related diseases - chest pain and a persistent cough - can often be confused with those of other disorders. It is extremely important, therefore, that those that worked at or lived around sites such as the Borden Chemical formaldehyde plant in Springfield, Oregon, inform their physicians about the possibility of exposure to asbestos. Such information can enable doctors make a timely diagnosis; especially with mesothelioma cancer, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances of survival or at the least of enjoying an improved quality of life.


Sources - Borden, Inc.

Borden Chemical, Inc. - Resolution Performance Products LLC and Resolution Specialty Products LLC to Merge - Binding, Bonding, Coating with Thermoset Resins - Borden Chemical

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops

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