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BP/ARCO Carson Refinery

The BP Arco Refinery located in Carson, California, along the Dominguez Channel just south of Los Angeles has a long history going back to the state's colonial period, when it was part of the old Spanish Empire. The local oil field is named for a land grant by the Spanish Crown to an army officer, Juan Jose Dominguez, in 1784. The home built by his nephew, Manuel, still exists as a museum.

Refinery History

The BP-ARCO refinery has been acknowledged as a major polluter in the region. The facility dates from the early 1920s when Los Angeles first became the center of the nascent film industry. The first owner was Pan American Petroleum, which sold the plant to Richfield. That company merged with Atlantic to form ARCO in 1967; it has since been taken over by British Petroleum, the current owner-operator of the refinery.

Current capacity is 260,000 barrels per day; primary products consist of motor fuel (gasoline and diesel), aviation fuel and LP gas.

Asbestos and Oil Refineries

During most of the 20th century, various forms of asbestos were used as a building material in cases where flames or excessive heat was a danger. Materials made with asbestos, accordingly, were frequently utilized in the construction of facilities like the BP/ARCO Carson Refinery. Along with being temperature-resistant and flame-proof, certain kinds of asbestos are also especially resistant to reactive chemicals. As a result, asbestos was used in coating materials, protective garments and benches. Asbestos, however, had a major downside that was not known or at times deliberately ignored: grave and often lethal medical conditions were caused by exposure to asbestos.

Most of this asbestos was the form called amosite. The brownish pigment of amosite comes from iron molecules in its chemical composition; this also causes amosite to be resistant to acidic chemicals, such as those produced in plants like BP/ARCO Carson Refinery. This amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, appeared in chemical plants, refineries and laboratories across the country for many years before being outlawed as a construction material in the 1970s.

Asbestos transite displayed qualities like cement; it could be molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes. For the most part, new items formed from transite were considered safe since the asbestos fibers were trapped in the transite. Tiny particles of asbestos enter into the air, however, as this transite gets older and becomes prone to becoming powdery. When it is in this state, it is considered friable, or able to be crushed by hand pressure alone. In addition, laboratory and chemical plant ovens almost always contained friable asbestos in insulation linings.

The Dangers of Friable Asbestos

When they are friable, asbestos particles are easily dispersed in the atmosphere. When a person inhales these particles, they can harm the lungs, resulting in asbestosis or cancer. Mesothelioma, a rare but often lethal cancer of the mesothelium (the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity), is strongly linked with asbestos exposure. If those airborne particles settle on food or in drinks and are then swallowed, pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma can occur, though they are less common than pleural mesothelioma.

Because scientific inquiry yielded increased awareness of asbestos' serious effects on human health, workers today benefit from the protection offered by strict laws regulating how to use asbestos. The use of asbestos was more commonplace, however, when BP/ARCO Carson Refinery was operating. Any asbestos remaining from then may yet pose a health hazard if people are not careful during remodeling projects.

Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger

As opposed to typical on-the-job injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, asbestos-related illnesses can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to manifest. The symptoms of asbestosis and mesothelioma - dyspnea and pain in the chest - may often be mistaken for those of other disorders. It is very important, therefore, that people who worked in or lived near oil refineries such as BP/ARCO Carson Refinery tell their health care professionals about the possibility of asbestos exposure. New treatments for mesothelioma are being developed, and early detection gives the patient and his or her doctor the best chance to combat the once deathly disease. Workers from these refineries that have been negligently exposed should seek legal counsel with a mesothelioma attorney.

Sources

Sources

California Department of Toxic Substances Control - BP Carson Refinery East and West Basins Draft Post-Closure Permit Fact Sheet http://dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/Projects/upload/BP-Carson_FS_dPCPermit.pdf

GoAntiques - Dominguez Oil Fields Company - Southern California http://www.goantiques.com/detail,dominguez-oil-fields,338818.html

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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