Arkema Alsip Plant

Arkema Inc. is headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and operates a number of chemical and manufacturing plants throughout North America. The Alsip, Illinois, chemical facility is one of these production plants, specializing in the production of latex emulsion materials. Arkema Inc. is a relatively new company, started in 2004 as a part of the restructuring of the Total Chemical business. The Alsip chemical plant was part of this transition, and continues to produce industrial products that include finishes, coatings and adhesives.

The Alsip facility was initially opened in 1971 and in later years the plant would undergo major changes as automated machinery was introduced. The Moore APACS Process Control Platform was installed between 1998 and 2000, additional chemical reactor units were added to the production line, and older outdated reactors were shut down and retired.

Latex emulsion products are the result of a complex chemical mixing process. Much like cheese making, the temperature to which ingredients are brought and held is important, as is the amount of time for congealing. In the industrial world, latex products are used almost everywhere, and these chemicals are found in tape, glues and caulk, weatherproofing materials, other waterproof coatings and even clothing.

At the Alsip plant the primary ingredients are created in large reactor units that blend and heat materials; electromagnetic charges are introduced in the processing of certain products as well. As with any chemical plant there is the danger of toxic substances being spilled and the hazards of noxious fumes and vapors; the Alsip facility has a self-auditing system that oversees work permits and chemical handling as well as inventory and housekeeping. Monomer unloading involves vapor balancing, and vapor streams are created in this process; at the Alsip chemical facility these vapor streams are incinerated.

Asbestos was likely used in various forms at the Alsip chemical facility. Asbestos tiles and fireproof boards were often installed at this type of manufacturing plant as a means to prevent fire and insulate from high temperatures. Asbestos is a poor conductor of heat and is therefore excellent when used to surround boiler units or wrap hot pipes.

Workers who inhale loose asbestos fibers are at risk of developing mesothelioma or other health complications years later. Most of the people diagnosed with diseases connected to asbestos exposure have not have been near this material for decades, which means that past employees at the Alsip chemical facility may have worked around this material long ago and have not yet shown symptoms of illness.