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Sunoco Ohio

The Toledo Refinery was the first refinery owned by the company that is now known as Sunoco. During the days in which Sunoco was part of the Diamond Oil Company - in the late 1800s - the refinery was acquired. It was in 1895 that the Sun Oil Company of Ohio, which is now known as Sunoco, began operations in the Toledo Refinery.

The Toledo, Ohio, facility's importance began to grow in the late 1980s when Sunoco began to restructure efforts and focus on refining and marketing. It was during this time that Sunoco not only expanded efforts at current refineries, but also acquired the Atlantic Petroleum Corporation along with Chevron's Philadelphia Refinery in order to develop a refining complex in neighboring Pennsylvania. This division is still the focus of growth for Sunoco.

Today, the Toledo Refinery processes approximately 140,000 barrels a day of crude oil. This Sunoco Chemicals facility employs close to 600 people. This staff processes crude into gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, propane and residual fuels. Additionally, the Toledo Refinery produces petrochemicals that are sold to chemical companies to be used in the manufacture of Styrofoam, detergents, nylon, plastic and related products.

Ohio Citizen Action Tracks Toledo Refinery

The Ohio Citizen Action Coalition has followed actions at the Toledo Refinery for a number of years. Since August 2005, nearly 20,000 residents in the Toledo area have signed petitions, written letters and sent postcards in an effort to urge Sunoco to reduce pollution from the plant. Additionally, the group focuses on educating residents about how oil refining works, maintains industrial pollution records and information about Sunoco and has launched a refinery reform campaign.

Asbestos and Oil Refineries

In the greater part of the 1900s, in cases where flame or extreme temperature was a risk, various forms of asbestos were selected as insulation. Plants like the Sunoco Toledo Refinery, as a result, were often made with materials that contained asbestos. A lesser-known property of various kinds of asbestos is their resistance to chemical reactions. Floor and ceiling tiles, insulation, work surfaces, even protective clothing, therefore, often contained the fibrous mineral. And though the asbestos did well in safeguarding against fire damage and in protecting people and equipment from extreme temperatures, the mineral also exposed those same people to significant health risks.

Amosite was often the variety of asbestos used in these facilities. Frequently called "brown asbestos", the amphibole form of asbestos known as amosite is especially resistant to corrosive substances like those manufactured in oil refineries because of the iron molecules in its chemical makeup. Although it was prohibited from use in building materials in the 1970s, this amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, was utilized for many years in chemical plants, laboratories and oil refineries throughout the country.

Asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces, sprayed onto ductwork and pipes and laminated just like cement could. This form of asbestos did not pose a health hazard while it was solid. Microscopic fibers of asbestos enter into the air, however, as asbestos-containing transite gets older and becomes prone to becoming powdery. That is, such asbestos is friable, or able to be pulverized by hand pressure alone. In addition, laboratory ovens almost always contained friable asbestos as part of their insulation linings.

The Problem with Friable Asbestos

Friable asbestos is a problem because in this condition the particles are easily dispersed in the air. Medical conditions such as cancer and asbestosis are known to result from the inhalation of asbestos. Mesothelioma, an unusual but frequently fatal cancer affecting the mesothelium (the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity), is strongly linked with asbestos exposure. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, as may occur when the microscopic particles enter the air and land on food or in beverages, may lead to peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma.

Increased pressure from the media, citizen groups and medical researchers forced the creation of regulations controlling how to use asbestos. The use of asbestos was more commonplace, however, when places like the Sunoco Toledo Refinery were built. And even now, asbestos from the past can cause danger if it is not disposed of properly during remodeling and demolition jobs.

A Time Bomb

In contrast to many work-related injuries, which are readily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, asbestos-related diseases may take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to manifest. Given such a lengthy time between asbestos exposure and the manifestation of symptoms, a worker might not even associate his or her current condition with work he or she did 10 or more years earlier. Men and women who worked in or spent much time around oil refineries such as the Sunoco Toledo Refinery should therefore ask their doctors for a mesothelioma treatment guide. Experimental ways to combat mesothelioma are being discovered, and early detection provides the patient the best chance of beating the once deathly disease. A mesothelioma cure may one day be developed but currently only palliative treatments exist.

Sources

Sources

Ohio Citizen - Campaigns Related to the Sunoco Toledo Refinery
http://www.ohiocitizen.org/campaigns/sunoco/sunoco.htm

Sunoco - About Sunoco
http://www.sunocoinc.com/site/TheCompany/OurHistory/

Sunoco Chemicals - Toledo Refinery
http://www.sunocochemicals.com/products/toledo.htm

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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