Asbestos In Kansas
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral used in nearly every building prior to the 1980s. Exposure to the mineral can lead to major health issues. When the toxin is disturbed, tiny fibers become airborne and potentially inhaled. Health issues associated with the mineral include mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
Over 500 state-wide residents have required extensive medical treatment and passed away from a disease caused by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. Kansas homes and workplaces were built with and may still contain the cancer-causing carcinogen. Common locations of the toxin include floor tile, roofing tile, and thermal insulation. In Kansas workplaces, the toxin was heavily used in the aircraft, chemical, oil, and insulation industries.
Occupational Asbestos Exposure in Kansas
For years, Kansas’s large aircraft manufacturing and maintenance industry put workers at risk of exposure and development of cancer. Cessna, an aircraft company in Wichita, employs over 8,000 workers. Employees were exposed to the toxin while manufacturing or repairing products like airplane brakes, clutches, engines, gaskets, and insulation.
Boeing’s Wichita division was once the state’s largest private employer. Since 1927, the site employed as many as 40,000 people. The Wichita division produced 15,000 aircraft and maintained and modified military aircraft, including Air Force One. The carcinogen was built into nearly every plane until the company starting substituting different materials in the late-1970s. However, decades of its use prior to legal regulation exposed thousands of Kansas employees. As time goes on, thousands of Kansans may find themselves in need of lung therapy and/or cancer treatment due to prolonged periods of contact with asbestos.
Other companies responsible for exposure include:
- American Salt Company
- Apco Oil Corporation
- Cessna Aircraft Company
- Chemical Sealing Corporation
- Coffeyville Municipal Light & Power
- Co-Op Oil Refinery
- Diversified Insulation/Shelter Shield/WRG
- Dodson Manufacturing Company
- Dupont Chemical
- Farmland Industries
- Frontier Oil
- Georgia Pacific/Bestwall Gypsum
- Harcros Chemical Company
- Kansas City Power & Light
- Kansas Power & Light.
- Mid-America Refining Company (MARCO)
- National Cooperative
- Sunflower Electric Corporation
- Texaco Oil
- Trans World Airlines, Inc.
- Vulcan Chemical
- Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Co.
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Mid-America Refining Company
From the 1940s to 1981, the Mid-America Refining Company operated in Chanute, Kansas as a petroleum refinery. The site became an environmental and legal hazard after being abandoned in 1981, where surrounding soil and groundwater became contaminated with asbestos and other carcinogens known to contribute to mesothelioma and lung cancer once used to insulate machines. In 1994, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated a cleanup effort, removing nearly 190,000 tons of contaminated soil.
Like most manufacturing operations, salt production relied on the carcinogen in machinery and other components used to mine and produce salt. Kansas has significant amounts of natural salt resources in the environment. Salt production companies known for exposure include Morton Salt Company, Barton Salt Company, and Carey Salt Company.
Asbestos Shipments to Kansas
The conglomerate company W.R. Grace was founded by William Russell Grace in 1854. The company started out in fertilizer and machinery, but later got involved in shipping, banking, oil, healthcare, and mining. Mining operations included silver, clay, phosphate, tin, and ore.
The company shipped several million tons of ore across the United States from its mines in Libby, Montana (where mesothelioma diagnoses are abnormally high). Shipments of the ore contained trace amounts of the toxin. Kansas received nearly 6,000 tons of the toxic ore in nearly 100 shipments from 1948 to 1933. Cities in Kansas that received shipments from Libby include Blue Rapids, Wellsville, and Kansas City.
Kansas State University Exposure
According to Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, nearly every building built before 1981 contains asbestos – a legal activity during the time of their construction. With the exception of some buildings built in the last few years, older buildings make up a majority of the campus.
Buildings on campus where friable asbestos is found:
- Calvin Hall
- Cardwell Hall
- Coles Hall
- Dickens Hall
- Dykstra Hall
- Edwards Hall
- Foundation Tower
- Kedzie Hall
- King Hall
- K-State Student Union
- Leasure Hall
- McCain Auditorium
- Shellenberger Hall
- Throckmorton Hall
- Trotter Hall
- Waters Hall
In the spring of 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor cited two abatement contractors more than $200,000 for not following Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards while rehabilitating Kansas State University’s Hale Library. The negligent work resulted in hazardous exposure to students, staff, and faculty that could lead to mesothelioma requiring treatment in 30 to 40 years. The two contractors violated several standards, including:
- Exposing employees to asbestos,
- Failing to provide respiratory protection,
- Failing to provide personal protective clothing,
- Failing to provide develop a written hazard communication program,
- Failing to provide train workers on asbestos hazards,
- Failing to provide properly dispose of material and waste containing asbestos, and
- Failing to conduct medical surveillance for employees exposed to health hazards.
For students subjected to years of hazardous contact with airborne toxins on campus, symptoms of lung illness could take years to develop. In time, lung damage caused by contaminants will require specialized treatment.
Legal Help In Kansas
If you were recently diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestos-related cancer, you have two years to file a legal claim against negligent companies, according to the state’s statute of limitations law. To learn more about asbestos claims as well as treatment options, download our free mesothelioma guide.