The city of Torrance, California, was incorporated in 1920. Nine years later, a sea captain with a desire to be able to fuel ships in the Los Angeles harbor with crude oil that had been discovered in the San Joaquin Valley founded a refinery in the area. Despite that this occurred during the Great Depression, in a short amount of time, pipelines were built and the refinery in Torrance began to process 30,000 barrels of crude daily under the guidance of the General Petroleum Corporation. ExxonMobil now owns this California refinery and processes closer to 150,000 barrels of crude each day.
As it was in the early days of the Torrance Refinery, crude arrives at the facility by pipeline from the San Joaquin Valley. Now, however, rather than processing fuel for ships, the Torrance Refinery uses up-to-date technologies to enhance the facility and produces gasoline, aviation fuels, diesel fuel, liquefied petroleum gases, coke and sulfur. The low-emission gasolines that are produced at the plant are sold in Southern California and neighboring states Arizona and Nevada.
Specifically, the Torrance refinery now covers more than 750 acres of land and employs approximately 800 people. The nearly 1.8 billion gallons of low-emission gasolines produced at the refinery are mostly sold within the state and accounts for close to 10 percent of all gasoline produced in the state. In addition to providing efficient fuels for the state's automobile drivers, the Mobil refinery in Torrance produces jet fuel that is supplied via pipeline to the Los Angeles International Airport.
Asbestos in Mobil Oil Torrance Refinery
In most of the 1900s, in cases where flame or extreme temperature was a concern, various forms of asbestos were used as a building material. Therefore, it was not uncommon for facilities like Mobil Oil Torrance Refinery to be built with materials made with asbestos. Resistance to chemical reactions is another property of certain types of the fibrous mineral. Because of this, asbestos was used in bench tops, protective clothes and lab equipment. Asbestos, however, had a significant downside that was not known or sometimes deliberately ignored: serious and often fatal medical conditions were found to be the result of exposure to asbestos.
Amosite was often the kind of asbestos used in such plants. When it is mixed with chrysotile, which is resistant to heat and bases but not as impervious to acidic compounds, amosite creates materials that are particularly good at protecting against corrosive chemicals. This amosite, in the form of asbestos transite, appeared in chemical plants and laboratories throughout the country for decades before it was outlawed as a construction material in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite could be laminated, molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork in the same way cement could. As long as it remained solid, this form of asbestos offered almost no danger. As this transite gets older and become prone to becoming powdery, however, deadly, tiny particles are able to float into the atmosphere. Asbestos in this condition is called friable, or able to be pulverized by hand pressure alone. Also, laboratory ovens often contained friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.
The Problem with Friable Asbestos
Asbestos particles, when friable, are easily dispersed in the air. Inhaling asbestos particles can lead to diseases such as asbestosis or cancer. Another unusual, but often lethal, disease linked to asbestos is a type of cancer called mesothelioma. The pleural variety of the illness, which attacks the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity, is the most common. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, as can occur when those tiny particles float in the air and fall on food or in beverages, may result in peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma.
Since scientific inquiry yielded increased knowledge of asbestos' serious effects on human health, people today enjoy the protection of strict laws regulating the use of asbestos. However, when plants such as Mobil Oil Torrance Refinery were built, the use of asbestos was much more prevalent. Any asbestos that remains from that period can still pose a health hazard if containment protocols are not observed during demolition and remodeling jobs.
A Time Bomb
As opposed to most job-related injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, asbestos-related diseases may take many, many years to manifest. The symptoms of asbestos-related diseases - pain in the chest or abdomen, a persistent cough and shortness of breath - may often be confused with the symptoms of other, less serious disorders. If caught early the disease can possibly be treated with mesothelioma surgery. It is vital, therefore, that folks who were employed by or lived around sites such as Mobil Oil Torrance Refinery tell their health care professionals about the possibility of exposure to asbestos. In addition, even people who commuted in the same cars with these people are also in danger, as unless effective safety measures, including using on-site uniforms and showers, were in place, it was quite possible for people to bring asbestos fibers on their skin, in their hair, or on their clothing and should inquire about mesothelioma information.Sources
California EPA Air Resources Board - California Refineries
Exxon Mobil - About Torrance Refinery
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal