Buffalo Color, originally part of the National Aniline Chemical Company, was the largest of the three Allied Chemical manufacturing facilities located in Western New York. In 1879, it began manufacturing many different dyes and colorants for the textiles industry on Elk and Lee Streets in Buffalo.
Buffalo Color was well known for using asbestos to cover a vast majority of its pipelines and associated equipment. Asbestos refractory materials and insulation also covered equipment located in chemical manufacturing facilities, dye plants and boiler houses. However, lesser known is the danger posed by the actual chemicals being used inside Buffalo Color to make its products.
As its original name, National Aniline and Chemical Company would suggest, Buffalo Color produced many different dyes based on aniline and aniline derivatives, including but not limited to indigo dye. The production of these dyes was based in reactions, such as the Bechamp-reduction. It was used to reduce aromatic nitro compounds, such as nitrobenzene and nitronaphthalene to their corresponding anilines using iron and hydrochloric acid. This process, among others used to produce aniline-derived dyes like the ones manufactured at Buffalo Color, had the potential to expose workers to several toxic agents, including three well-known bladder carcinogens: benzidine, β-Naphthylamine and ortho-toluidine.
According to early 1970s data collected by an Allied Chemical researcher, the reported incidence of bladder tumors in workers at Buffalo Color, from 1930 to 1975, was 36 among workers exposed only to benzidine. The number of bladder tumors in workers exposed to benzidine, as well as to other potential carcinogenic agents, including β-Naphthylamine and ortho-toluidine, was 115. According to the researchers, it was established that production at this plant involved substantial exposure to known bladder carcinogens: Benzidine, β-Naphthylamine and ortho-toluidine, and consequently, led to significant increases in bladder cancer deaths among those workers.