ProPublica has released a must-read investigative report on the remaining hold-out
in the total ban of asbestos in America, the chlor-alkali industry. Specifically,
two chemical companies, OxyChem and Olin Corp., whose insistence upon
using chrysotile asbestos coated screens during the process of manufacturing
chlorine, caustic soda and hydrogen, have created a stranglehold on banning
asbestos for good for decades now with the help of powerful special interests
and business-friendly politicians.
The report follows former workers and their revealing accounts of the now
shuttered OxyChem Plant in Niagara Falls, New York.
“[A former plant worker] did his best not to inhale the asbestos,
but after a short time, he came to believe there was no way the killer
substance was not already inside him, waiting, perhaps 30 or 40 or even
50 years, to strike. “
Although alternatives to the asbestos screens have been widely available,
the chlor-alkali industry has repeatedly focused on their bottom line
and resisted costly upgrades necessary to ensure worker safety. The industry
has touted their stringent safety standards, but in reality, their protocols
often fell short and put workers and the community at risk.
With the EPA now on the brink of finally
banning asbestos, the chlor-alkali industry is preparing to shield their remaining asbestos-dependent
chlorine plants. If the EPA fails to completely ban asbestos this time
around, “it would raise serious doubts about the EPA’s ability
to protect the public from any toxic chemicals.”