Chemical Technicians

Summary

Chemical technician is a general term for workers employed in chemical processing plants. This is a huge employer in the industrial sector with approximately 13,500 American facilities producing a wide range of chemical products. Chemical production is a primary contributor the US economy with revenues exceeding one half-trillion dollars. For decades, thousands of chemical technician employees suffered asbestos exposure.

Chemical Technician Careers and Job Roles

Chemical technicians cover a broad spectrum of chemical plant duties. Primarily, chemical technicians handle all types of chemicals from raw material manufacturing to blending chemicals to produce compound products. All this requires different degrees of skill and training backgrounds.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics lists these chemical technician job descriptions:

  • Chemists: Chemists hold various degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering. They study molecular structures and chemical compounds as well as reactions and substance properties. Most chemists deal in research and product development. However, many worked directly with asbestos.
  • Chemical technicians: Most chemical technicians hold chemistry degrees or diplomas, but they’re hands-on in actual manufacturing of chemical materials. Chemical technicians assist chemist in producing products. Their roles include handling chemical materials from start to finish. Chemical technicians were constantly exposed to chemical products containing asbestos.
  • Chemical equipment operators: Chemical equipment operators are less formally trained but highly efficient at operating chemical production equipment and controls. Equipment operators were also routinely exposed to chemical materials holding asbestos.
  • Mixing tenders: Chemical blending is overseen by tenders who physically control chemical volumes being blended. Their roles always exposed them to chemicals with asbestos.
  • Packaging and shipping workers: Final products are processed for packaging and shipping by less-skilled workers. However, they were also exposed to asbestos in chemical compounds.

Asbestos Exposure and Chemical Technicians

MJN Brief

All five US Labor Bureau chemical worker classifications were exposed to asbestos during the twentieth century. The entire chemical industry used vast asbestos quantities from the 1920s when asbestos became so popular for its insulation and fire resistance properties. Asbestos use continued in the chemical industry until the late 1980s when the extreme health dangers from asbestos exposure became well-known.

Asbestos fibers were used in many chemical compounds and chemical processing equipment. Many asbestos products were for the construction industry that consumed asbestos at an enormous rate. Chemical companies used asbestos to manufacture paint, adhesives, insulation, sealants and joint compounds. Synthetic products like rubber and resins contained asbestos fibers added at chemical plants to improve performance.

Chemical production plants require high heat to change elements and compounds from one form to another. To control heat dangers, chemical plants used large amounts of asbestos for insulating high temperature areas and protecting them from causing fire. Asbestos qualities seemed the perfect solution as asbestos has low heat transfer properties and won’t burn under any conditions.

These qualities also made asbestos appear the right material for chemical technicians’ personal protective equipment. Workers wore asbestos coveralls, aprons, gloves and facemasks to protect themselves from heat, fire and chemical burns. Many workers were unaware of asbestos fiber health risks. They were constantly exposed to asbestos with their production materials and protective clothing.

All chemical production plants use incinerators. These high heat containers notoriously used asbestos for insulation wrap, gaskets and door sealants. A continual heat and dry cycle turned asbestos protection into friable particles or dusty powders that were constantly airborne. Chemical technicians regularly inhaled and ingested asbestos fibers.

Asbestos Health Risks and Chemical Technicians

Airborne asbestos particles are extremely dangerous. Tiny asbestos particles were easily dislodged when chemical technicians used asbestos in any form. Microscopic asbestos fibers were inhaled and lodged in workers’ lungs. They can’t be expelled once inside the lungs where they embed into the pleura, or lung lining.

Micro asbestos particles will remain dormant for decades only to flare up years after exposure and cause cancerous lung tumors. This deadly lung cancer disease is called mesothelioma, and it’s only caused by asbestos exposure. Other asbestos-related diseases also occur in the digestive and circulatory systems.

Compensation for Chemical Technicians with Mesothelioma

Chemical technicians who developed mesothelioma due to workplace asbestos exposure may be eligible for monetary compensation. Awards are made for medical expenses, wage loss and personal injury. Punitive damages are also possible and family members can file lawsuits for wrongful death of relatives.

There are many legal precedents for mesothelioma lawsuits against chemical companies who exercised neglect and failed to protect chemical technicians from asbestos exposure.

Some chemical companies involved in asbestos-related litigation for exposing workers to asbestos include:

  • Chevron Phillips Chemical Co.
  • Dow Chemical Co.
  • Dupont
  • Durez Corporation
  • General Electric Company
  • Hill Brothers Chemical
  • Hooker Chemical Plant
  • Monsanto Chemical Plant
  • Rogers Corporation
  • Rostone Inc.
  • Union Carbide Corporation
  • Westinghouse Corporation