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Olin Corporation

After World War II and the retirement of its founder, Olin Industries entered a period of expansion. It was during this time that Olin acquired Frost Lumber Industries of Louisiana and Arkansas - and when they began to operate in Louisiana. Because much of the land that was acquired with the purchase was timberland, the company began producing papers, along with metal products - mostly brass and non-iron-based alloys - as well as fastening systems and explosives.

At the same time, Mathieson Chemical had been growing and had established itself as a profitable company. In 1954, Olin Industries and Mathieson merged to become the Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation. During the 1950s and 1960s, the newly forged company focused on building its core technologies and key products, which included chemicals, metals and ammunition. The chemical company continued to grow; in 1955, Olin Mathieson acquired the Blockson Chemical Company (centered in Illinois) and began producing a line of industrial phosphates.

The Olin Corp chemical plants focused on a number of key products. These include: ethlene, ethanol and methanol (and their derivatives), fertilizers, potash, pesticides, paints and lacquers. Products created at the Olin Corporation plants are then used in a wide range of other products - such as in the manufacture of polyurethane foams like those used to stuff furniture cushions.

Chemical Plants and Asbestos

During the majority of the 20th century, whenever fire or extreme heat was a risk, asbestos was chosen as an insulator. As a result, it was quite common for chemical plants such as Olin Corporation to be made with materials made with asbestos. Resistance to chemical reactions is another property of various types of the fibrous mineral. Given the type of work that occurs in chemical plants, asbestos, therefore, was not only used in plant structures, but also in bench tops, safety clothes and coating materials. And while the asbestos worked well in safeguarding against the spread of fire and in protecting life and property from extreme heat, it also exposed people who used it or worked around it to significant health risks.

For the most part, amosite was the variety of asbestos utilized. Often called "brown asbestos", the amphibole form of asbestos known as amosite is especially good at resisting corrosive chemicals like those produced in plants like Olin Corporation because of the iron in its chemical composition. Used for many years in the form of asbestos-containing transite in labs and chemical plants across the US, amosite was finally banned as a construction material in the 1970s.

Asbestos transite possessed qualities similar to cement; it could be molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork. As long as asbestos transite was solid, this form of asbestos posed no immediate danger. However, when this transite got older, it became prone to crumbling, which caused the deadly, microscopic fibers to flake off into the atmosphere. In other words, such asbestos is friable, a term used for material that is easy to pulverize. Also, laboratory ovens often contained friable asbestos in insulation linings.

The Dangers of Friable Asbestos

Asbestos particles, when they are friable, are easily released into the air. Inhaling asbestos particles can lead to diseases such as cancer or asbestosis. Mesothelioma, a rare and often lethal disease affecting the mesothelium (the lining between the lungs and the pleural cavity), is strongly linked with inhaling asbestos. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, as happens if the microscopic fibers are released into the air and settle on food or in beverages, may result in pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.

During the last twenty years scientists and researchers have uncovered a lot about the risks associated with being exposed to asbestos, and therefore there are strict rules controlling its use. Asbestos use was much more prevalent, however, when plants such as Olin Corporation were built. Before present-day safety regulations were put into place, workers frequently labored without respirators in spaces where asbestos dust filled the atmosphere.

Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger

In contrast to most work-related injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, asbestos-related diseases can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to appear. The symptoms of asbestos-related diseases - difficulty breathing, chronic coughing and chest pain - may often be mistaken for the symptoms of other, less serious disorders. People that were employed by or lived near places like Olin Corporation should, accordingly, notify their doctors about the possibility of exposure to asbestos and ask for mesothelioma information. Such information can assist doctors to make a timely diagnosis; especially with malignant mesothelioma, the sooner the diagnosis, the better the chances of survival or at least of improved quality of life.



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