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Monsanto

Founded in 1901, Monsanto Chemical Company operates on two campuses in Missouri. The Chesterfield Campus near St. Louis opened in 1984 as a life sciences research center and sits on 210 acres. Featuring 1 million square feet of research space, it is now owned by Pfizer, but one building is leased by Monsanto for research. The facility is also known for its landscaping and wildlife management. It became a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the Wildlife Habitat Council in 1994.

Monsanto's Creve Coeur Campus in St. Louis was begun in the mid-1950s. The 504-acre site includes the Monsanto Information Technology Data Center, built in 2006. Also recognized for its landscaping, the world headquarters campus received recognition from the Wildlife Habitat Council as well as the City of Creve Coeur Beautification Award.

Both Monsanto campuses have received OSHA VPP Star certification. For this, a site must pass a rigorous audit of its safety programs and practices, while its accident rate must be lower than the rest of the industry.

Production

Monsanto is one of the largest chemical companies in the United States, with 17 manufacturing plants across the country. It originally produced just saccharin, but now manufactures over 400 products including abrasives, acids, detergents, synthetic fibers, food flavorings, gas additives and oil additives, as well as petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and rubber and textile chemicals.

Even with all of these, the company's specialty is phosphorus. It has an entire manufacturing division for it and produces many phosphorus-based compounds using calciners and other sophisticated equipment.

Monsanto is still continuing its growth. It plans to build an atomic power plant in partnership with Union Electric Co. of Missouri. Currently being considered by the AEC, the project would make Monsanto the first private enterprise in the world to use atomic energy for industrial production purposes.

Monsanto Chemical Company plants and Asbestos

During most of the last century, the mineral called asbestos was chosen as an insulator in cases where flames or temperature extremes were a risk. As a result, it was typical for facilities like Monsanto Chemical Company plants to be constructed with asbestos-containing materials. A lesser-known property of some types of asbestos is that they are unaffected by reactive chemicals. Because of this, asbestos was utilized in coating materials, counter tops and safety garments. There is no doubt that asbestos was excellent at safeguarding against high temperatures and combustion. This benefit, however, was accompanied by a significant price in terms of human health.

Most of this asbestos was the form called amosite. Frequently called "brown asbestos", the amphibole form of asbestos known as amosite is particularly good at resisting corrosive chemicals like those manufactured in chemical plants because of the iron in its chemical composition. Used for decades in the form of asbestos-containing transite in labs and refineries throughout the country, amosite was finally disallowed as a construction material in the 1970s.

Asbestos transite had properties similar to cement; it could be molded into working surfaces, sprayed onto ductwork and pipes and laminated. This form of asbestos did not present a health risk so long as it remained solid. However, as transite with asbestos containing material (ACM) got older, it became prone to becoming powdery, which enabled the deadly, tiny fibers to float into the air. Asbestos in this condition is called friable, or able to be crushed by hand pressure alone. Also, laboratory ovens frequently were fabricated with friable asbestos in insulation linings.

Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad

When friable, asbestos particles are readily dispersed into the air. Diseases like asbestosis and cancer are known to result from being exposed to airborne asbestos. Another unusual, but generally deadly, asbestos-related disease is mesothelioma. The pleural variety of mesothelioma cancer, one which attacks the lining between the lungs and the pleural cavity, is the most prevalent. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, which happens if the microscopic fibers become airborne and fall on food or in beverages, may lead to pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.

In the past twenty years scientists and researchers have discovered much information about the risks that accompany being exposed to asbestos, and as a result there are strict regulations controlling its use. The use of asbestos was much more prevalent, however, when chemical plants like Monsanto Chemical Company facilities were first operating. Before present-day rules were put into place, workers often labored without protective equipment in spaces where asbestos dust clouded the atmosphere.

A Ticking Bomb

As opposed to typical job-related injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, asbestos cancer can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to develop. The symptoms of asbestos-related diseases - pain in the chest, shortness of breath (also known as dyspnea) and a chronic cough - can often be confused with those of other conditions. Therefore, it is vital for men and women who worked at or spent much time around places like Monsanto Chemical Company plants to notify their doctors about the possibility of exposure to asbestos. Such information can enable doctors make accurate diagnoses; especially with mesothelioma cancer, the earlier the diagnosis, the higher the odds of surviving or at the least of improved quality of life.

Sources

Sources

Monsanto.com - Company History
http://www.monsanto.com/who_we_are/history.asp

Mindfully.org - The Reign of Chemistry
http://www.mindfully.org/Industry/Reign-Of-Chemistry-5jan53.htm

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/EHSRM/ASB/acmimages3.html

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal
http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/EHSRM/HAZEXCEPTIONS/a.html

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