Arkema Blooming Prairie Plant

Arkema Inc. operates the Blooming Prairie chemical plant in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota. The facility has been producing specialty industrial oils since 1970, and has very close ties to the community. The parent company Arkema Inc. is headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and operates a vast number of facilities and research centers worldwide, mostly in the field of industrial plastics, fuels, vinyl and food processing.

The Blooming Prairie chemical plant uses oxygen to bond with unsaturated bonds in soybean oil, linseed and olefinic oils. These oils are then used by Arkema and other companies in the formation of certain resins that ultimately become plastic, nylon and other artificial substances. These epoxidized oils are also used in the formation of such products as lipstick, shampoo and even perfumes. Hardened plastics made by using epoxidized soybean oil are found in the interior of automobiles, home appliances and tile flooring. The surfaces of food wrappings and the linings of jar lids are often made using these same resins.

Raw materials are brought to the chemical plant by rail. Vegetable oils arrive in tanker containers and are transformed into special additives at the site, then reloaded for rail shipment to companies around the country.

Although the Blooming Prairie chemical plant is at the forefront of technology and puts high priority on environmental safety, there was a time when this type of facility used asbestos. This material was often installed in factories, power plants and chemical facilities where high heat, high voltage electricity and hot pipes were part of the workplace. Asbestos is a good insulator and fire-retardant compound, but its makeup of tiny fibers posed a health risk for employees.

If asbestos breaks loose and becomes airborne it can be inhaled, which happened to countless factory workers in past decades. It is now widely known that mesothelioma and other complications arise from the inhalation of asbestos, and these diseases often do not become apparent for many years after initial exposure. Today the Arkema plant locations use more modern forms of insulation, but former employees at the Blooming Prairie chemical facility may have been exposed to asbestos around boiler units, electrical breaker panels and other locations in the factory.