The Industrial Liquid Chemical Company (ILC) operated in Camden, New Jersey. The facility included a laboratory where chemical research was performed and a chemical distribution and storage facility. The site is currently inactive, but in the late 1990s, contaminants that were found in an Industrial Liquid Chemical Company drum (that had been abandoned) were deemed by the US Environmental Protection Agency to be similar to those discovered in a nearby well.
Facilities like the Industrial Liquid Chemical Company's came about in response to a need for commercial fluids that may be caustic or corrosive to be handled safely. Corrosive or caustic liquid chemicals require special handling, specialized packaging equipment, strict operating procedures and staff who are well-trained and committed to safety.
Chemical Plants and Asbestos
In cases where fire or excessive heat was a risk, various forms of asbestos were the insulating material of choice during much of the 1900s. Plants such as Industrial Liquid Chemical Company, therefore, were often constructed using materials that contained asbestos. Resistance to reactive chemicals is perhaps a less well-known property of certain kinds of the fibrous mineral. In light of the kind of work that goes on at chemical plants, asbestos, therefore, appeared not only in factory buildings, but also in benches, protective garments and lab equipment. And though the asbestos did well in safeguarding against fire damage and in protecting life and property from high temperatures, the mineral also exposed people who used it or worked around it to significant health risks.
Amosite was almost always the type of asbestos used in such plants. The brownish pigment associated with amosite is a result of iron molecules in its chemical composition; this also makes amosite resistant to acidic chemicals, such as those produced in plants like Industrial Liquid Chemical Company. Used for decades in the form of asbestos transite in chemical plants, labs and oil refineries throughout the US, amosite was eventually disallowed as a construction material in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite could be sprayed onto ductwork and pipes and laminated in the same way cement could. As long as it remained solid, this form of asbestos posed almost no hazard. Tiny fibers of asbestos are released into the atmosphere, however, as transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) ages and becomes prone to becoming powdery. Asbestos in this condition is called friable, or able to be reduced to powder by hand pressure alone. Also, laboratory ovens frequently were fabricated with friable asbestos in insulation linings.
The Problem with Friable Asbestos
Asbestos particles, when they are friable, are easily dispersed in the environment. Diseases like cancer and asbestosis are known to result from breathing asbestos. Mesothelioma, an unusual but all too often deadly disease affecting the mesothelium (the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity), is strongly linked with asbestos exposure. If the airborne particles settle on food or in beverages and are subsequently swallowed, pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma can occur, though they are less common than pleural mesothelioma.
Because research led to a better knowledge of the risks of asbestos exposure, people today benefit from the protection offered by strict laws regulating the use of asbestos. The use of asbestos was more common, however, when places like Industrial Liquid Chemical Company were first operating. Before present-day regulations were enacted, employees frequently labored without respirators or other safety gear in spaces where asbestos dust filled the atmosphere.
The Hidden Danger of Asbestos
Unlike many workplace injuries, which are readily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, asbestos cancer can take many, many years to develop. It can also be hard to diagnose asbestos-related disorders because the symptoms can be mistaken for the symptoms of other, less serious disorders. It is vital, therefore, that those that worked at or lived near plants such as Industrial Liquid Chemical Company tell their physicians about the possibility of exposure to asbestos. Furthermore, family members and others who shared homes with these people are also in danger, since unless effective safety measures, including the use of on-site uniforms and showers, were in place, it was easy for people to bring asbestos on themselves or their clothes.Sources
FindPollution.com - Industrial Liquid Chemical Company (ILC)
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal
US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition - Chemical Manufacturing Except Drugs
US EPA - Facility Detail Report for the Industrial Liquid Chemical Co (ILC), Camden, NJ
US EPA - Industrial Liquid Chemical Company (ILC)
EPA Superfund (CERCLIS) - Industrial Liquid Chemical Company (ILC) Query Results - Site ID NJ0002238970