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Union Oil Refinery - Rodeo

In 1890, the Union Oil Company of California was founded by Thomas Bard, Lyman Stewart and Wallace Hardiman in Santa Paula, California. Union Oil Company of California was a major petroleum exporter and marketer for more than 100 years. The company operates under the name Unocal. The Union Oil Company of California was the original founder and operator of the Union 76 gas station chain.

The defunct Union Oil Company still operates as Union Oil Company of California, a Chevron company, but it is no longer an independent company. Union Oil Company of California became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chevron Corporation after its merger in August 2005.

Chevron Corporation

On September 10, 1879, a group of merchants and explorers founded the Pacific Coast Oil Company in San Francisco, California. During its more than 130-year history, several mergers and acquisitions took place to form the modern day Chevron Corporation, which employs an estimated 67,000 people in more than 20 different countries around the world. Chevron adopted its current name in 2005, after the acquisition of the Union Oil Company of California.

Rodeo Refinery

The Rodeo Refinery is located 20 miles northeast of San Francisco. In 1994, the refinery experienced a chemical leak that released Catacarb, a chemical used in gas production, into the air for 16 days. The chemical leak led to the sickening of area residents and a lawsuit against the company. In 1997, Union Oil agreed to pay an $80 million settlement to more than 600 plaintiffs. In 1995, the Rodeo refinery was sold to Tosco Refining Corp. of Stamford, Connecticut.

Asbestos and Union Oil Rodeo Refinery

In cases where extreme temperature or flame was a risk, various forms of asbestos were the insulation preferred by builders in much of the last century. Materials made with asbestos, therefore, were frequently used when building plants such as Union Oil Rodeo Refinery. Along with being temperature-resistant as well as a fire retardant, some types of amphibole asbestos are also particularly impervious to chemical reactions. Floor tiles, insulation, work surfaces, even protective garments, therefore, often were made with the fibrous mineral. One of the ironic things with asbestos is that while it does a fine job of protecting lives and property from the damage done by high heat and flames - it is one of the best insulators known and has been used for the purpose for centuries - it also poses serious risks to people's well being.

Generally, amosite was the kind of asbestos used. The brown color associated with amosite comes from iron molecules in its chemical composition; this also makes amosite resistant to corrosive substances, such as those manufactured in facilities like Union Oil Rodeo Refinery. Although it was prohibited from use as a construction material in the 1970s, amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, appeared for decades in chemical plants, refineries and labs across the country.

Asbestos transite could be molded into working surfaces, laminated and sprayed onto ductwork and pipes just like cement could. This form of asbestos did not pose a health risk as long as it remained solid. As this transite grows older and become prone to crumbling, however, lethal, tiny fibers are able to flake off into the atmosphere. In this state, it is considered friable, which is defined as easy to pulverize. The insulation lining of industrial ovens also frequently contained friable asbestos.

The Dangers of Friable Asbestos

When they are friable, asbestos particles are easily released into the environment. Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause conditions such as cancer or asbestosis. In addition, exposure to asbestos is the primary causal factor of mesothelioma, an unusual but often fatal cancer affecting the mesothelium, the tissue that lies between the lungs and the chest cavity. Pericardial and peritoneal mesothelioma result from the ingestion of fibers of asbestos, which is likely if microscopic particles are released into the air and settle on food or in beverages.

Because scientific inquiry led to a better awareness of asbestos' serious effects on human health, people today enjoy the protection of stringent regulations controlling how to use asbestos. When many oil refineries were first operating, however, the use of asbestos was more prevalent. And in way too many instances workers used asbestos-containing materials without the benefit of respirators.

The Lurking Hazard of Asbestos

One of the insidious aspects of exposure to asbestos is that associated illnesses may take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to develop - frequently decades after a worker has left the employer. It can also be difficult to diagnose asbestos-related disorders because the symptoms resemble the symptoms of other disorders. People that were employed by or lived around sites such as Union Oil Rodeo Refinery should ask their doctors for mesothelioma information. Experimental methods for treating mesothelioma are being discovered, and early detection provides the patient and his or her doctor the best chance of beating the once deathly disease. Sometimes mesothelioma surgery is available as a treatment.

Sources

Sources

Chevron Corporation - History
http://www.chevron.com/about/leadership/history/2002/

ConocoPhillips - Drive Savvy
http://www.drivesavvy.com/

The Free Library - Union Oil Co. of California
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Union+Oil+Co.+of+California-a011680583

L.A. Times - Unocal Tentatively Settles Toxic Leak Case
http://articles.latimes.com/1997-04-16/business/fi-49290_1_unocal-corp

Unocal - Unocal at a Glance
http://web.archive.org/web/19970410085648/www.unocal.com/glance.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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