The U.S. imports hundreds of tons of asbestos each year from Brazil, primarily for two major chemical companies, OxyChem and Olin Corp. The companies claim that asbestos is integral to their chlorine production.
At OxyChem’s plant in Niagara Falls, New York, workers were exposed to asbestos dust that hung in the air, collected on the beams and light fixtures and built up until it was inches thick. Workers tramped in and out of it all day, often without protective suits or masks, and carried it around on their coveralls and boots.
Employees implored the plant’s managers to address the conditions, but the dangers remained until the plant closed in late 2021 for unrelated reasons.
The two companies proved that they didn’t need asbestos to make chlorine; they built new modern facilities that didn’t need asbestos, but they complained about the cost of upgrading the older facilities that were still using asbestos — even as they reported record profits.