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Harcros Chemical Co.

Harcros Chemicals Incorporated is a Kansas City-based chemical manufacturing and distribution company with 28 regional distribution centers around the country to service thousands of industrial chemical customers. Harcros distributes hundreds of different chemical products from a number of different chemical manufacturers (including chemical giants DuPont, Eastman and BASF), utilizing their standing fleet of over 200 delivery vehicles servicing the primary markets of the American midwestern and southeastern states. In total, the Harcros Chemicals locations are comprised of over one million square feet of warehousing space and more than three million gallons of liquid chemical storage.

Products and Services

Some of the product lines manufactured or distributed by Harcros Chemical include: specialty surfactants (wetting agents that reduce surface tension), preservatives, organic hydrotropes, biocides (chemical compounds that are toxic to microorganisms), emulsifiers, anti-foaming agents and other specialty chemical products. Harcros also specializes in delivering chemical treatment products for water treatment facilities and distributes swimming pool chemicals. The company also supplies road salt and de-icers to some municipalities in the northeastern United States. The chemicals manufactured and delivered by Harcros are used in most major industries, including the aerospace, furniture manufacturing and metal industries.

Company History

The company was founded (as Thompson-Hayward Chemicals) in 1917 and after several ownership changes became Harcros in 1981 when American Philips purchased the company. Harcros Chemicals became a privately held company in 2001 when an investment group - headed by the company's management - bought the company back from its British parent company. In 2004, Harcros was one of dozens of chemical manufacturing companies named in a lawsuit alleging war crimes for their role in the manufacture of Agent Orange chemicals employed in the deforestation techniques used by the US Army during the Vietnam War. A federal judge ruled that there was no legal basis for the suit, and the case was dismissed. In late 2009, the company received a $30 million re-capitalization loan from GE Capital lending. The loan - the latest in a long-line of financial arrangements with GE Capital - was made to allow Harcros the flexibility to maintain operations and continue its growth.

Chemical Plants and Asbestos

During most of the 1900s, whenever extreme temperature or fire was a risk, asbestos was used as an insulator. Facilities such as Harcros Chemicals Incorporated, therefore, were often constructed with asbestos-containing materials. Resistance to chemical reactions is another property of some forms of amphibole asbestos. Floor tiles, insulation, benches, even protective garments, therefore, commonly contained the fibrous mineral. One of the ironic things about asbestos is that although it does superbly protecting lives and property from the harm done by high heat or combustion - it is one of the best insulators known and has been used for the purpose throughout history - it also poses significant risks to people's well being.

Much of the asbestos was of the amosite variety. When it is mixed with chrysotile, which is resistant to heat and bases but not as resistant to acids, amosite creates products that are especially good at preventing damage from corrosive substances. Although it was banned in building materials in the 1970s, this amosite, in the form of asbestos transite, appeared for many years in refineries, laboratories and chemical plants throughout the US.

Asbestos transite possessed qualities similar to cement; it could be sprayed onto ductwork and pipes, molded into working surfaces and laminated. This form of asbestos did not offer a health risk while it remained solid. As this transite grows older and become prone to becoming powdery, however, lethal, tiny fibers can float into the air. In other words, such asbestos is friable, or able to be reduced to powder by hand pressure alone. The insulation lining of industrial kilns also almost always contained friable asbestos.

Why Friable Asbestos Is a Problem

When friable, asbestos fibers are readily released in the air. Breathing asbestos fibers can lead to diseases such as cancer or asbestosis. Another uncommon, but generally fatal, disease linked to asbestos is mesothelioma. The pleural form of mesothelioma cancer, which affects the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity, is the most prevalent. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, which happens when those tiny fibers become airborne and land on food or in drinks, can result in pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.

Mounting pressure from researchers, the press and citizen groups forced the creation of rules controlling how to use asbestos. When facilities such as Harcros Chemicals Incorporated were built, however, asbestos was more prevalent. Any asbestos remaining from that time can still pose a health hazard if care is not taken during remodeling jobs.

The Lurking Danger of Asbestos

In contrast to typical workplace injuries, which are easily observed and known about soon after the causing incident, asbestos cancer may take many, many years to manifest. Given such a long time between asbestos exposure and the manifestation of symptoms, a worker may not connect his or her current health problem with work done decades ago. Men and women that worked at or lived near plants such as Harcros Chemicals Incorporated should, accordingly, inform their physicians about the possibility of asbestos exposure. New methods for treating mesothelioma cancer are being discovered, and early detection gives patients the highest chance to beat the once deathly form of cancer.



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