Resources for Patients and their Families

Canal Refining

Church Point, the self-proclaimed "Cajun Music Capital of the World", is a small town located in Louisiana's Acadiana Gateway (population 4,661 in 2008). It's also the home of Canal Refining, one of the smaller players in the oil industry. The refinery is owned by Lazarus Energy Holdings, Houston, Texas.

Shut down in May 1997, Canal Refining once produced as much as 8,000 barrels of oil per day. It had its share of troubles before then. In 1987, the Spokane Chronicle reported, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sought to fine the company $740,274 for making gasoline with too much lead in it.

2000, the company sought Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. Robert McKee, a member of the Osage nation, acquired Canal Refining Company, Canal Marine Terminals, and Canal Marketing Company through his family interest in Native American Refinery Company. In 2003, Canal Refining was listed as one of the companies registered in a Reformulated Gasoline and Anti-Dumping Program. Lazarus Energy purchased the company in 2007. The refinery appears to remain idle.

Oil Refineries and Asbestos

During the majority of the 20th century, when combustion or extreme temperature was a risk, asbestos was used as insulation. Plants like Canal Refining, therefore, were frequently built with materials that contained asbestos. Along with being flame-proof as well as temperature-resistant, certain kinds of asbestos are also especially resistant to reactive chemicals. Because of this, asbestos was used in safety garments, bench tops and coating materials. There is no question that asbestos was excellent at safeguarding against extreme heat and fire. This benefit, however, came with a horrible cost in terms of human health.

For the most part, amosite was the type of asbestos utilized. When it is mixed with chrysotile, which is resistant to heat and bases but not as impervious to acids, amosite creates materials that are especially effective at preventing damage from corrosive chemicals. Although it was outlawed as a construction material in the 1970s, amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, was utilized for many years in labs, chemical plants and refineries across the US.

As with cement, asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces, sprayed onto ductwork and pipes and laminated. As long as it remained solid, this form of asbestos offered little hazard. However, as this transite got older, it was prone to crumbling, which enabled the deadly, microscopic fibers to float into the atmosphere. Asbestos in this state is considered friable, or able to be pulverized by hand pressure alone. In addition, industrial kilns almost always were constructed with friable asbestos in insulation linings.

Why Friable Asbestos Is Bad

Friable asbestos is dangerous because in this form the fibers are readily dispersed into the environment. Diseases like asbestosis and cancer are known to result from being exposed to airborne asbestos. Another rare, and often lethal, disease linked to asbestos is mesothelioma. The pleural variety of the illness, which attacks the tissue that lies between the lungs and the pleural cavity, is the most prevalent. When the particles of asbestos in the air land on food or in beverages and are subsequently ingested, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma may result, though they are less common than pleural mesothelioma.

Because medical research led to a better understanding of asbestos' serious effects on human health, workers today enjoy the protection of stringent guidelines regulating the use of asbestos. When most oil refineries were constructed, however, asbestos was more common. Before present-day regulations were put into place, employees frequently labored without protective equipment in environments where asbestos particles clouded the air.

Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger

Asbestos-related diseases, in contrast to many on-the-job injuries, which are easily observed and known about soon after the causing incident, can take many, many years to appear. Given such a lag between exposure to asbestos and the manifestation of symptoms, a worker might not associate his or her current health problem with work he or she did 10 or more years earlier. Those who worked in or spent much time near sites such as Canal Refining should ask their doctors about the possibility of exposure to asbestos. Such information can enable physicians for mesothelioma information; especially with mesothelioma, the earlier it is caught, the higher the odds of survival or at eligibility for treatments like mesothelioma surgery.



Business Week - Lazarus Energy Holdings, LLC - Church Point, Louisiana


Newcomb and Co - Robert McKee: Managing Director and Division Head - International Corporate and Industry Services

David Simpson - Church Point

Spokane Chronicle - EPA seeks big fines against refiners,1858674 - Companies Registered in the Reformulated Gasoline and Anti-Dumping Program

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops

University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal

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