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Asbestos Exposure At Solvay Process Company in Syracuse, New York

Asbestos-containing materials covered a vast majority of the pipe lines and associated equipment throughout Allied Chemical’s plants and production facilities. Throughout its three Western New York plants, the coke ovens, chemical manufacturing facilities, dye plants, and boiler houses all contained asbestos refractory or insulation materials. A refractory material is a non-metallic material capable of resisting high temperatures and other destructive forces, such as corrosion and abrasion. Asbestos was an ideal ingredient for refractory materials utilized as insulation surrounding high heat and corrosive liquids and gases. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma or lung cancer.

Initially, Allied Chemical manufactured acids, dyes, alkalis, coal tar chemicals and nitrogen. In the 1960s, Allied expanded into the production of coke and its by-products, resins and plasticizersnylon 6, refrigerants, heavy denier (for tire production), yarn and electronics. Many of these products were created with the use of high heat temperatures; additional products, such as sulfuric acid, were extremely corrosive to the pipelines and vessels in which they were contained. Asbestos insulation and materials were used to protect the equipment.

Workers employed at Buffalo Color, Semet-Solvay and the Solvay Process Plant regularly came into contact with asbestos-containing block insulation, cement, pipe covering, gaskets, packing material and pumps. Due to wear and tear, it was common for asbestos-containing materials to be removed and reapplied. After worn insulation was removed, reapplication of asbestos insulation was necessary so that the pipes could effectively contain steam and other corrosive or high heat materials. During insulation reapplication, asbestos pipe covering was cut with a band saw and cement was mixed with water. Both processes created large clouds of asbestos dust. Most workers were completely unaware of the dangers of exposure to the asbestos dust and performed their work without masks or protective gear.

Additionally, boilers and vessels were covered with flat, block shaped asbestos-containing insulation that was cut and formed to a custom fit. Pumps and valves were sealed with asbestos gaskets and rope packing. Asbestos-containing spray insulation, or fireproofing was applied on the structural steel of Allied’s plants in order to prevent any potential fire hazards. Even in the office areas, asbestos-containing joint compound was used to finish drywall, and asbestos was a component of floor and ceiling tiles. Of course, any individual exposure to any one of these products varied based upon a worker’s years of service and their proximity to the asbestos-containing materials.

The coke ovens at the Semet-Solvay Company, now Tonawanda Coke, presented health risks for exposure to asbestos; but, those who worked on top of or alongside coke oven batteries are at a substantially increased risk for developing lung cancer and other cancers. Coke oven emissions are composed of gases and dust harmful to lungs and skin. Wilputte designed and constructed the coke ovens at Semet-Solvay.

Asbestos insulation and asbestos cement were used on the insides of coke ovens to prevent the brick on the inside of the ovens from deteriorating. Asbestos refractory materials were continuously applied and removed.  Even though these materials were effective insulation, they deteriorated quickly under the consistent use of high heat. Pipes and bypass lines associated with the coke ovens were sealed with asbestos gaskets and covered in asbestos-containing pipe covering. The doors and many of its metal components were coated with asbestos-containing fireproofing and rope insulation in an effort to contain as much heat as possible.

Unfortunately, asbestos-containing materials changed the lives of so many former workers employed by Allied. The lives of these workers would be altered by a diagnosis of lung cancer or mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos-containing materials. Dust produced and inhaled during the application and removal of asbestos-containing materials throughout Allied’s Western New York plants, exposed hundreds of people who worked at these facilities.

The attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the type and variety of asbestos-containing products applied and maintained at Semet-Solvay (Tonawanda Coke), Buffalo Color or Solvay Process Company. 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 Semet-Solvay (Tonawanda Coke), Buffalo Color or Solvay Process Company and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.

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