Located in Albany, Oregon, a transportation and manufacturing hub of the Willamette River Valley of Central Oregon, the Georgia-Pacific Millersburg Resin Plant produces formaldehyde and thermosetting resins used in particleboard, hardboard, OSB (Oriented Strand Board) and plywood. The plant began operations in 1972. The latest data available shows that the plant employs 48 people. In 1998 the Millersburg plant was one of four Georgia-Pacific chemical manufacturing plants that received the Division Vice-President's Environmental Achievement Award. Results of a 2006 EPA inspection for water quality violations showed that the Millersburg plant had no violations or pending fines.
Recognized as the world's largest tissue maker and a leading manufacturer of plywood lumber, and building products as well as a leading manufacturer of other paper-based consumer products, Georgia-Pacific, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, employees more than 2,000 people in its statewide Oregon operations. Worldwide Georgia-Pacific has approximately 300 manufacturing sites across North America, South America and Europe and employs more than 45,000 people.
Asbestos use and litigation
From 1965 through 1977 Georgia-Pacific used asbestos to create a building products compound used for hanging wallboard and finishing ceilings. By 2001 the company had approximately 63,000 pending asbestos injury claims, which soon became the biggest issue clouding the company's future. By 2004 the company had set aside over $100 million dollars in a ten-year defense fund. In that year alone Georgia-Pacific paid out $200 million dollars to resolve claims, an 11-million-dollar increase from 2003, when claim payments totaled 189 million.
Georgia-Pacific's best known consumer brands include Angel Soft, Northern, and Soft 'N Gentle bath tissue; Mardi Gras, Vanity Fair, and Zee paper napkins; Brawny, Mardi Gras, Sparkle and Zee paper towels; and Dixie, PerfecTouch, Ultra, Vanity Fair and Insulair paper cups and plastic tableware.
Asbestos and Chemical Plants
During the majority of the 1900s, when extreme temperature or fire was a danger, various forms of asbestos were selected as a building material. Therefore, it was typical for chemical plants like Georgia-Pacific Millersburg Resin Plant to be constructed with asbestos-containing materials. In addition to being a fire retardant as well as heat-proof, some types of asbestos are also especially resistant to chemical reactions. Ceiling tiles, insulation, benches, even protective clothing, therefore, frequently were made with the fibrous mineral. And while the asbestos worked well in preventing fire damage and in protecting people and equipment from high temperatures, it also exposed people who used it or worked around it to serious health risks.
Much of this asbestos was the form called amosite. Often referred to as "brown asbestos", amosite is particularly resistant to acidic chemicals like those produced in chemical plants because of the iron molecules in its chemical composition. Although it was banned as a construction material in the 1970s, amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, was utilized for many years in chemical plants, refineries and labs across the US.
Asbestos transite displayed properties like cement; it could be laminated and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork. For the most part, new items built with transite were safe because the asbestos fibers were trapped in the transite. With age, however, transite with asbestos-containing material (ACM) becomes prone to crumbling, enabling tiny particles to flake off into the air. Asbestos in this condition is considered friable, a term that is used for materials that are easily pulverized. The insulation lining of laboratory kilns also almost always contained friable asbestos.
The Dangers of Friable Asbestos
Asbestos fibers, when friable, can be easily dispersed in the air. If a person breathes these particles, they can damage the lungs, causing cancer. In addition, inhaling asbestos is known to be the leading cause of mesothelioma, a rare and frequently deadly disease affecting the mesothelium, the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, as is easy to do when those tiny particles float in the air and fall on food or drinks, may be the cause of pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.
Increased pressure from activist groups, news media and medical scientists resulted in rules controlling how to use asbestos. The use of asbestos was more common, however, when chemical plants like Georgia-Pacific Millersburg Resin Plant were built. Before present-day rules were enacted, workers frequently toiled without respirators or other protective gear in environments where asbestos dust filled the air.
A Ticking Bomb
One of the insidious aspects of exposure to asbestos is the resulting illnesses may take many, many years to manifest - often decades after a worker has retired from the employer. The symptoms of asbestosis and asbestos cancer - pain in the chest or abdomen, shortness of breath and a chronic cough - may often be confused with those of other disorders. Those that were employed by or lived near places such as Georgia-Pacific Millersburg Resin Plant should, therefore, tell their physicians about the possibility of asbestos exposure. Such information can enable doctors make a timely diagnosis; especially with mesothelioma, the earlier it is caught, the higher the chances of surviving or at least of improved quality of life.Sources
Georgia-Pacific - About Us
Georgia-Pacific - Brands For Your Home
Georgia-Pacific - Georgia-Pacific Honors Plants for Environmental Achievement
Georgia-Pacific - News Room
Georgia-Pacific - Oregon Facts and Figures
New York Times - Find Water Polluters Near You
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal