Mcintosh, AL

Olin Corp. in McIntosh, AL Exposed its Workers to Asbestos Without Protective Gear over Decades, Reported by ProPublica

Zack Love

Employees at the Olin Corporation chemical plant in McIntosh, Alabama are only now being notified that they were unknowingly exposed to asbestos for decades. Many of them were not informed of their routine dangerous exposure and sometimes didn't have any protective gear. Asbestos exposure is known to cause mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

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Plant seen in the backgroundPhoto byAnton Eprev

ProPublica reported on 7 Dec. 2022 that seven employees have come forward sharing their firsthand accounts that they were exposed to asbestos at Olin Corporation chemical plant in McIntosh, Alabama.

One employee, Letunja Caster, is an example. In the beginning, she had "no idea that asbestos was even being used in the production line." That all changed when she became a union saftey representative around 2007. After that change in duties, she could easily see it around the plant and said to ProPublica, "You definitely breathed it in." (Source: ProPublica, S1)

ProPublica interviewed several employees, and they found that while certain designated asbestos workers were given training and protective gear, countless others were also exposed and given no training or safety equipment. (Source: ProPublica, S1)

Another employee, Andy Lang, knows he breathed it in, after seeing it go flying around the plant and "land everywhere."

He said:

“Ain’t no doubt in my mind.” -Andy Lang, former Olin plant employee (Source: ProPublica, S1)

His sister, Bertha Reed, also worked at the plant, developed lung cancer, and died in 2017.

AL.com reported that former contract janitor, Carrie Jenkins, "scraped asbestos off of the locker room floor," and "threw away asbestos protective gear," and was exposed while she was pregnant. She was never given any protective gear or told how dangerous asbestos is.

The CEO of Olin, Scott Sutton says it is no longer being used at the McIntosh Plant, but many people were exposed for decades without any warning.

ProPublica: Chlorine Plants Nationwide Have an Asbestos Problem

The practices around asbestos at Olin Corporation chemical plant in McIntosh, Alabama were brought to light after ProPublica did a nationwide investigation at chlorine plants around the U.S. including a plant in Niagra Falls, New York, a Texas plant, and a plant outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Employees at all of these chlorine plants recall unsafe practices regarding worker exposure to asbestos. The main concern is that the country's two largest chlorine producers, both Olin Corp. and OxyChem, continue to use asbestos at their plants*. This poses a safety concern to workers that are were exposed to this known carcinogen. (Source: ProPublica, S1)

*This was reported by ProPublica, but it is unknown which plants or how many still use asbestos.

In October 2022 after ProPublica first put out a report about the dangerous working conditions at chlorine plants, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and lawmakers were considering a ban on importing asbestos once and for all. (Source: ProPublica, S2)

Many chlorine plants have been phasing out the use of asbestos because it is known to cause mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lungs or abdomen.

Asbestos is Not the Only Issue the McIntosh Plant has Faced

FOX 10 News reported in July 2022 the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) proposed fining the Olin Chemical Corporation for "three chlorine leaks" at its plant in McIntosh.

According to a proposed consent order issued Friday, 22 July 2022 by ADEM, Olin Corporation would face a fine of $80,000 for the release of chlorine into the air on three occasions and one instance of failing to properly report a release. Olin Corporation agreed to pay the $80,000 for its chlorine leaks that happened in October 2020, October 2021 and January 2022, according to ADEM. FOX 10 News reported that Olin had other violations that dated back to 2017.

Olin Corporation agreed to pay the $80,000 for its chlorine leaks.

More importantly, the chemical company is required to come into compliance and prevent future chlorine leaks from occurring again.

AL.com reported that McIntosh residents are suing Olin Corporation for not telling them about the chlorine leaks.

Final Thoughts

Big corporations should not simply pretend they are acting ethically, but operate without safety measures in their production processes to ensure their workers are safe and not exposed to harmful carcinogens, such as asbestos.

Olin Corporation is not innocent and should own up to the fact that many of its workers were exposed to asbestos.

Does this company care about its employees, or just the bottom line?

Sadly, I think we all know the answer to this, and those that were employed at the McIntosh plant are the ones that were not told they were being exposed to asbestos.

Please share this article with friends and family on social media to help inform others about what is going on.

Sources

S1. McGrory, Kathleen and Neil Bedi. "Workers Across America Break Their Silence on Decades of Asbestos Exposure." ProPublica. 7 December 2022.

S2. McGrory, Kathleen and Neil Bedi. "Lawmakers and Public Health Advocates Call for Congress to Finally Ban Asbestos." ProPublica. 27 October 2022.

Tryen-Fernandes, Savannah. "Alabama workers reportedly exposed to asbestos for decades with no warning." AL.com. 7 December 2022.

WALA Staff. "Olin Chemical faces $80,000 fine from ADEM." FOX 10 News. 23 July 2022.

WALA Video: "Olin chemical company agrees to pay $80,000 fine for chlorine leaks." FOX 10 News. 25 July 2022.

Note: Two sources by the same authors and publication indicated by "S1" and "S2."

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Zack covers interesting and inspiring news stories that impact local communities. He has a bachelor's degree and an MBA.

Huntsville, AL
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