Located in Middlebury, Connecticut, Uniroyal Chemical has a long and storied history. Originally founded in 1892 under the name of United States Rubber Company, Uniroyal Chemical initially produced rubber products and consumer goods. However, ninety years later, Uniroyal stopped making these goods, changing their focus toward the manufacture of other chemical products.
In 1986, Avery Inc. created the brand Uniroyal Chemical Company as a subsidiary. UCC Investor Holding bought the Uniroyal brand from Avery and renamed itself Uniroyal Chemical Corporation. Ten years after its initial introduction by Avery, Uniroyal Chemical became a publicly traded company in the same year it merged with Crompton and Knowles Corporation under the Crompton and Knowles brand. This new company combined in 1999 with Witco to become Crompton Corporation. When Crompton Corporation and Great Lakes Chemical Corporation merged, a new company, Chemtura, was formed. The Uniroyal Chemical Company still continues to operate as a subsidiary of Chemtura today from its Middlebury, Connecticut, headquarters.
During the late 1980s, Uniroyal Chemical came under fire for its production of the carcinogenic chemical daminozide, marketed under the brand name Alar. Apple growers sprayed their crops with Alar to maintain a crisp texture in the fruit in storage and to ensure an even ripening for all the fruit. The company agreed to stop sales to United States markets of the product, but continued its overseas sales.
The Uniroyal Chemical plant in Connecticut has also been named in several asbestos lawsuits by former employees and family members.
A waste dumping site used by the plant, Laurel Park, was targeted by the EPA as a contaminated site when nearby residents noticed foul odors, spills, runoff and fires coming from the area as early as the 1960s. This led the EPA to file an Administrative Consent Order with Uniroyal Chemical in 1985 to seek joint measures to control contamination of the groundwater and surrounding area from the landfill. These measures included the construction of a cap over the landfill, construction of a capture system for the chemicals leached from the landfill and the making of a new water line to provide clean drinking water for the residents of the area. Today, the site no longer poses a groundwater or surface contamination threat to the public.
Chemical Plants and Asbestos
In most of the 20th century, asbestos was used as a building material when flames or temperature extremes were a risk. Facilities like Uniroyal Chemical, therefore, were generally built using materials containing asbestos. Resistance to chemical reactions is one of the other properties of certain types of the fibrous mineral. As a result, asbestos was used in counter tops and protective clothes. There is no doubt that asbestos was excellent at safeguarding against heat and combustion. This benefit, however, came with a terrible price in terms of human health.
Amosite was almost always the variety of asbestos used in such locations. When it is mixed with chrysotile, which is resistant to heat and bases but not as impervious to acidic compounds, the amphibole amosite creates products that are especially effective at preventing damage from corrosive substances. Used for many years in the form of asbestos transite in chemical plants and labs throughout the country, amosite was eventually banned as a construction material in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite could be laminated and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes in the same way cement could. This form of asbestos did not offer a health hazard so long as it remained solid. However, as asbestos-containing transite got older, it was prone to crumbling, which enabled the deadly, microscopic particles to float into the air. When it is in this state, it is considered friable, or able to be reduced to powder by hand pressure alone. In addition, industrial ovens frequently were fabricated with friable asbestos in insulation linings.
Why Is Friable Asbestos Dangerous?
Asbestos fibers, when friable, can be easily dispersed in the environment. Breathing asbestos fibers can result in diseases like cancer. Another uncommon, but generally fatal, disease caused by asbestos is mesothelioma. The pleural form of mesothelioma cancer, which attacks the tissue that lies between the lungs and the pleural cavity, is the most common. Pericardial and peritoneal mesothelioma result from ingesting asbestos fibers, which can occur when the microscopic particles are released into the air and land on food or in drinks.
In the last few decades scientists and researchers have uncovered a lot about the risks associated with asbestos exposure, and as a result there are stringent laws regulating its use. The use of asbestos was more common, however, when plants such as Uniroyal Chemical were constructed. Before modern safety regulations were put into place, employees frequently labored without respirators or other safety gear in spaces where asbestos dust clouded the atmosphere.
Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger
Asbestos-related diseases, as opposed to typical work-related injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the causing incident, can take many, many years to appear. It can also be difficult to diagnose mesothelioma cancer since the symptoms resemble those of other, less serious conditions. It is very important, therefore, that men and women who were employed by or spent much time near sites such as Uniroyal Chemical notify their doctors about the possibility of asbestos exposure. New treatments for mesothelioma cancer are being developed, and early detection provides patients and their doctors the highest chance to combat the previously deathly form of cancer. Those who believe they are at risk for mesothelioma cancer should contact one of the mesothelioma clinics in their area.Sources
Chemtura.com - Chemtura Timeline
Holleran, Kelly - South Carolina Couple Claims Mesothelioma In Suit (The Madison Record, 15 September 2008)
Shabecoff, Philip - Apple Chemical Being Removed In U.S. Market (New York Times, 3 June 1989)
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal