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Disclosure of the Hazardous Use of Asbestos at Chemical Plant May Pave Way for a Complete Ban

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.”

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