Dytex Chemical Company was a chemical bundling company that combined various industrial chemicals to make products for use in numerous consumer applications. Chemical compounds produced by Dytex were used in the manufacturing of pool chemicals, industrial cleaning and sanitation products and a wide range of other chemical agents used by the automotive, textile and jewelry industries. The company filed for bankruptcy in March 1996.
Dytex was located in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Central Falls is a densely populated town northeast of the city of Providence. Even though the city's land area is only one and one-half square miles, Central Falls has over 18,000 residents and has long been recognized as one of the most densely populated areas in all of the United States.
Environmental and Health Concerns
Shortly after the company filed for bankruptcy, the Dytex Chemical plant was the focus of Environmental Protection Agency scrutiny. A review of the potential environmental hazards of the plant revealed that the defunct company had accumulated over 1,100 barrels of chemicals, acids and solvents that were stored inside the building and several tanks of sulfuric acid (containing over 2,000 gallons of the acid) stored outside. Because there were more than 18,000 residents within a mile of the site - some living as close as fifty feet from the plant - as well as an active train line and waterways near by, the presence of these chemicals and chemical agents was deemed to be a problem.
The EPA initiated a Super Fund cleanup at the site, which was accomplished within ninety days. The cleanup cost nearly $300,000 dollars. The EPA was able to secure roughly 10 percent of that cost from the company as part of the bankruptcy settlements.
Asbestos in Chemical Plants
During the majority of the 1900s, the mineral called asbestos was chosen as a building material whenever flames or extreme heat was a risk. As a result, it was not uncommon for facilities like Dytex Chemical Company of Rhode Island to be constructed with asbestos-containing materials. In addition to being temperature-resistant and fireproof, some forms of amphibole asbestos are also particularly impervious to reactive chemicals. Because of this, asbestos was used in safety garments, coating materials and counter tops. One of the ironic things with asbestos is that while it does a fine job of protecting lives and property from the harm done by fire or heat - it is one of the most effective insulators known and has been used for the purpose throughout history - it also poses significant risks to human health.
In general, amosite was the type of asbestos used. The brownish tint associated with amosite comes from iron molecules in its chemical makeup; this also makes amosite resistant to corrosive chemicals, such as those used in plants like Dytex Chemical Company of Rhode Island. Although it was banned as a construction material in the 1970s, this amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, was utilized for many years in refineries, chemical plants and labs throughout the United States.
Like cement, asbestos transite could be laminated and molded into working surfaces. As long as it was solid, this form of asbestos offered no immediate hazard. As asbestos-containing transite grows older and become prone to crumbling, however, deadly, tiny fibers are able to float into the atmosphere. Asbestos in this condition is called friable, or able to be crushed by hand pressure alone. In addition, industrial kilns often were constructed with friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.
Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad
When friable, asbestos fibers are readily dispersed into the atmosphere. Medical conditions such as cancer and asbestosis can result from the inhalation of asbestos. In addition, asbestos exposure has been shown to be the leading cause of pleural mesothelioma, an unusual and often deadly disease of the mesothelium, the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity. Swallowing asbestos fibers, as is easy to do if the microscopic particles enter the air and land on food or drinks, may result in pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.
Mounting pressure from concerned citizens, researchers and the media led to laws regulating how to use asbestos. However, when many chemical plants were constructed, the use of asbestos was more commonplace. Any asbestos that remains from then may still pose danger if people are not careful during demolition projects.
Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger
As opposed to many job-related injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the incident, asbestos cancer can take many, many years to appear. With such a lag time between exposure and the onset of symptoms, the worker might not associate the current condition with work done many years ago. People who worked at or spent much time near chemical processing plants like Dytex Chemical Company of Rhode Island therefore should inform their health care professionals about the possibility of exposure to asbestos. New methods for treating mesothelioma are being discovered, and early detection provides patients and their doctors the best chance to beat the previously always-fatal disease.Sources
City of Central Falls - Main Page
Environmental Protection Agency - EPA Completes Cleanup at Former Chemical Site
Environmental Protection Agency - Super Fund Sites/Dytex Chemical Company
Environmental Protection Agency - Termination of Pesticide Producing Registration
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal