W.R. Grace & Co. Site - West Chicago, Illinois

Modified on 2009/10/14 21:40 by admin
A public health consultation of the former W.R. Grace & Co. facility in West Chicago, Ill., by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) concludes that facility employees were exposed to elevated levels of asbestos. Residents of employees' households may have been exposed to asbestos fibers brought into the household on employees' clothing, skin and hair. Therefore, employees and those who lived in their homes may be at increased risk of asbestos-related diseases.

ATSDR, a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) recommend that former employees of this facility and those who lived in their households learn more about asbestos and see a physician if they are concerned about potentially adverse health effects.

"Because of the elevated health risk, ATSDR believes former W.R. Grace employees and members of their households should seek medical follow-up," stated Vikas Kapil, M.D., a specialist in occupational and environmental medicine with ATSDR. "We encourage them to consult with a physician with expertise in the evaluation and management of asbestos-related lung disease."

Until it closed in the early 1990s, the plant, located at 603 Fenton Lane in West Chicago, processed more than 273,000 tons of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite ore mined in Libby, Mont. The vermiculite was exfoliated (heated until it expanded, or "popped"), then used to manufacture other products.

Recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) soil samples indicated only trace levels of residual asbestos at the site, and no stockpiles of vermiculite or vermiculite waste are present. Pavement covers the ground around the building, but much of the site remains open and grass-covered. Current land use in the surrounding area is primarily commercial and light industrial. The nearest residential area is approximately one-half mile east of the site.

According to Barbara Anderson, an ATSDR environmental health scientist, "On-site exposure to asbestos-contaminated soils does not appear to pose a public health hazard to those now employed at the site or living or working in the surrounding area."

Information about what occurred during the period when the plant processed the asbestos-contaminated vermiculite remains incomplete. Whether people living near the site when it was in operation were exposed to asbestos is not known. Also unknown is whether those currently living nearby are being exposed to asbestos from "stoner rock" (un-popped vermiculite), a process waste product which may have been used in the community for various purposes such as fill, driveway surfacing or soil amendments.

The vermiculite ore processed in West Chicago contained asbestos, which can become airborne and can be inhaled. Exposure to asbestos fibers is associated with serious adverse human health effects, including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, a disorder that restricts breathing capacity.

Because of the effects associated with asbestos exposure, ATSDR continues a broad range of efforts in Libby and is expanding those efforts to include sites that received and processed Libby ore.

See your doctor if you have experienced serious health problems because of exposure to asbestos or other toxic substances. In addition, it may be important to contact an attorney who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits within which you must commence suit.

See Also

  1. Specific Contaminated Sites
  2. Asbestosis: Overview
  3. Lung Cancer: Overview
  4. Mesothelioma
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