Union Carbide produced a variety of products throughout the twentieth century, including ethylene, alcohol and antifreeze. Union Carbide’s Western New York plants, however, were primarily known for producing various metals and chemical gasses. In the early 1900’s, Union Carbide’s Niagara Falls facilities became well known manufacturers of steel and iron. During the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s, Union Carbide’s Tonawanda Linde plant became equally well known for its production of hydrogen and atmospheric gasses, and it also manufactured the equipment used to properly transport these materials.
At Union Carbide’s Niagara Falls locations, large electric furnaces transformed calcium carbide and ferro-alloys into molten metal. At times, these furnaces reached an internal temperature of 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Insulating cement, which contained asbestos, lined the furnaces used to melt various metals. Workers mixed the asbestos-containing cement with water and then applied it to the surface of the furnaces. The mixing process created large clouds of asbestos-containing dust that floated through the facility.
Likewise, Union Carbide’s Linde plant in Tonawanda manufactured chemical gases that demanded the use of mixing kettles and pipes capable of keeping temperatures well below the freezing point. In order to maintain low temperatures, the kettles and pipes were insulated with asbestos block insulation and pipe covering.
Union Carbide’s plants, especially the Tonawanda Linde facility, depended on the use of asbestos for purposes other than chemical and metal production. Asbestos floor and ceiling tiles were used throughout Linde’s eighteen buildings. Periodically, asbestos-containing floor tiles were removed and replaced due to constant wear and tear from the chemicals produced at this facility. Large hooks were used to rip the tiles and mastic off the floor, which then released asbestos dust and fibers into the air.
Asbestos-containing insulation and materials were also used in the steam lines, waterlines, circulating lines, process lines, superheated ducts, smokestacks, breechings, hot ovens and exhaust ducts located throughout Linde’s plant. The powerhouse located at the Linde plant contained four boilers and an intricate system of steam pipes and pumps, all of which were covered with asbestos insulation. These materials also required frequent removal and re-application.
Those who worked at Union Carbide’s three Western New York plants were constantly exposed to asbestos dust from working with and in the vicinity of men who used saws and hooks to remove the asbestos insulation on pipes, furnaces, tanks, ducts, kettles, heat treat equipment and boilers. Much like the life span of the thermal insulation, the life span of the asbestos gaskets and packing inside of the pipes and pumps at Union Carbide was short. On a daily basis the gaskets within the various pipe flanges and packing within the various pump houses at Union Carbide were replaced. Workers responsible for this type of maintenance created asbestos containing dust by scraping and prying at asbestos materials during the removal process. Construction, repair and maintenance work that took place at Union Carbide’s plants was often performed by both Union Carbide employees and by outside contractors.
The attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the type and variety of asbestos-containing products used at Union Carbide. Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one were once employed at Union Carbide and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.