Tosco Corporation is a large petroleum refiner that spans the nation, with key offices in Connecticut and California. In years past, Tosco was a leader in the push for alternative energy. Since the 1980s, however, the company has backed off those efforts and now focuses solely on standard petroleum-based fuels and phosphate-based fertilizers.
Tosco operates large refineries in Wilmington and Martinez, California (near Los Angeles). The Wilmington plant has a processing capacity of approximately 120,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
The company that would eventually become Tosco Corporation was founded as the Oil Shale Corporation in 1955. It was headquartered in Los Angeles. Over time, Oil Shale made some strategic alliances that allowed it to grow, including joining with Atlantic Richfield in 1965 and acquiring the Signal Oil and Gas refinery in Bakersfield in 1970. The name Tosco was introduced in 1976. On the whole, the company has a refining capacity of close to 1 million barrels of crude oil per day.
In the News
In February of 1999, Tosco's Martinez refinery was the site of an explosion in which four workers died. In November of that year, Tosco's Wilmington refinery was the site of a fire in a holding tank. No injuries were reported, and the blaze was contained.
About Wilmington and Martinez, California
Wilmington, California, is located in Los Angeles County. Average home prices are significantly lower than the surrounding LA County area.
Martinez, California, is a prosperous town of approximately 35,000 that is located near the larger city of San Francisco. Incomes and home prices are generally above average for the state.
In both Wilmington and Martinez, the oil refineries represent a major area industry and supply many residents with jobs.
Asbestos and Tosco Corporation
During almost all of the 20th century, in cases where heat or flame was a risk, various forms of asbestos were selected as a building material. Therefore, it was not uncommon for oil refineries like Tosco Corporation's facilities to be built with materials made with asbestos. In addition to being non-flammable and heat-proof, some kinds of amphibole asbestos are also particularly impervious to reactive chemicals. As a result, asbestos was used in coating materials, benches and safety clothes. Asbestos, however, had a notable downside that was either not understood or at times deliberately ignored: debilitating and often lethal diseases were caused by asbestos exposure.
Amosite was often the type of asbestos used in such locations. The brown color associated with amosite comes from iron in its chemical makeup; this also causes amosite to be resistant to acidic chemicals, such as those manufactured in plants like Tosco Corporation's. This amosite, in the form of asbestos transite, was utilized in laboratories, refineries and chemical plants throughout the US for many years before being banned for construction purposes in the 1970s.
Asbestos transite possessed properties like cement; it could be molded into working surfaces and sprayed onto pipes and ductwork. As long as it was solid, this form of asbestos offered no immediate risk. Tiny particles of asbestos enter into the atmosphere, however, as asbestos-containing transite ages and becomes prone to crumbling. Asbestos when it is in this state is called friable, which is defined as easy to pulverize. In addition, industrial kilns often contained friable asbestos in insulation linings.
The Problem with Friable Asbestos
Asbestos fibers, when friable, can be readily dispersed into the environment. Medical conditions like asbestosis and cancer can result from the inhalation of asbestos. Another uncommon, and generally fatal, disease linked to asbestos is mesothelioma. The pleural variety of mesothelioma, one which affects the tissue that lies between the lungs and the pleural cavity, is the most common. When the airborne particles settle on food or drinks and are subsequently swallowed, pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma can result, although they are less common than pleural mesothelioma.
Increased pressure from the press, medical scientists and citizen groups forced the creation of rules controlling how to use asbestos. The use of asbestos was more prevalent, however, when places like Tosco Corporation were built. Any asbestos that remains from then may still pose a health hazard if care is not taken during remodeling projects.
The Lurking Hazard of Asbestos
Asbestos-related diseases, unlike most work-related injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the incident, can take many, many years to develop. When a former employee starts showing symptoms such as breathlessness, pain in the chest or abdomen and chronic coughing, his or her physician might not immediately recognize asbestos exposure as a cause, leading to a delay in diagnosis. Men and women who were employed by or lived near oil refineries like Tosco Corporation's California facilities therefore should ask their doctors for mesothelioma information. Furthermore, spouses of these people are also in danger, as unless strict decontamination protocols, including the use of workplace-only clothing and on-site showers, were enforced, it was all too common for personnel to bring particles of asbestos on their skin, in their hair, or on their clothes. Mesothelioma surgery is available to some patients and can improve the quality of life.Sources
American Towns - Wilmington CA
City Data - Martinez, California
Funding Universe - Tosco Corporation
Greenspun - Tosco Refinery in Wilmington California Blows
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal