The dangers associated with asbestos exposure have made the mineral’s use in the United States almost obsolete. It was commonly used in building materials such as tile, paint, and insulation, putting many at risk to adverse side effects in the process. When asbestos was revealed to be a carcinogenic toxin, the mineral was replaced with safer alternatives.
Despite efforts taken to remove asbestos from use in many products, it has been revealed that the toxin is seeing regular use in the chlor-alkali industry, which produces chlorine, sodium hydroxide, and hydrogen; three products that see regular use in chemical processes and household items.
In addition to their use in chemical processes, chlorine, sodium hydroxide, and hydrogen are used in many household items, ranging from cleaning agents and hydrogen peroxide, to the chlorine that we use to disinfect and maintain our swimming pools.
As the chlor-alkali industry produces materials necessary in many commonly used items, it comes as no surprise that the industry is quite large. In the United States, the industry employs over 20,000 workers, which puts thousands of producers and consumers at risk to asbestos exposure.
There are three known processes for creating chlorine, two of which are harmful and involve the use of mercury and asbestos. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that 15 plants are still using the diaphragm cell process, which makes use of asbestos to filter impurities from chlorine solutions to create the most commonly used form of chlorine.
The EPA reports that a typical chlorine plant using the diaphragm system in the United States uses between 5 and 25 tons of asbestos each year. While there are only 15 active plants in the country, according to the EPA, 340 tons of asbestos were imported by the United States in 2017, all of which were used for production in chlorine plants.
The membrane cell process is currently the safest process for creating chlorine and has been adopted by most chlor-alkali plants, as it does not use toxins that have the potential to contaminate the final chlorine product. There are several alternatives to asbestos use depending on the product being developed. Cellulose fiber and polyurethane foams can be used for insulation, and the membrane cell process can be used in the production of chlorine and its byproducts.
Asbestos exposure can lead to many complications, including mesothelioma. If you or someone you know has been exposed to asbestos and is experiencing adverse side effects, contact a Philadelphia asbestos lawyer at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler. With an experienced team that has served clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey for three decades, we know how to handle cases involving asbestos. To schedule an initial consultation to discuss your claim, contact us online or call 215-569-4000. We are centrally located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and serve clients from the surrounding areas.