The Rhodia Group is a large international chemicals firm headquartered near Paris, France. It operates 65 production facilities worldwide, including 19 in North America. Rhodia manufactures and distributes specialty chemicals that are used in the industries of auto making, flavorings, perfumes and personal care items. Rhodia was once a division of Rhône-Poulenc until 1998, when it became an independent stock corporation.
Rhône-Poulenc established a small chemical development laboratory in New Brunswick, New Jersey in the early 1900s. Since then a succession of mergers, acquisitions and company growth has made Rhodia a large presence across North America. The United States headquarters for the company is located in Cranbury, New Jersey. North America also houses one of five total global research and development centers for Rhodia in Bristol, Pennsylvania.
Rhodia is often called on to work with other businesses to develop chemical formulas needed for new product development. Such products range from food items to fragrances and shampoos, as well as chemical components used in tire production. These developments and processes require that production facilities for Rhodia consist not only of laboratories, but also chemical production plants. Similar production facilities are also located in Latin America, Europe, and Asian Pacific region. The company is divided into six separate divisions: Rhodia Polyamide is involved in the fabrication of polyamide plastics, Rhodia Acetow produces cellulose acetate cigarette filters, Rhodia Novecare makes amphoteric surfactants, Rhodia Silcea specializes in rare earth minerals, Rhodia Eco Service is involved with sulfuric acid regeneration, and finally, Rhodia Energy Services oversees the energy consumption of the entire company.
Rhodia acquired many of the production plants in which it operates, and many of these older structures may have used asbestos as an insulator and fireproofing substance. Asbestos is known to cause health problems such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Asbestos fibers break loose and become free-floating because pieces of this material are often cut or shaped to fit into ceiling tiles or to shield hot surfaces. Asbestos was also used to cover steam pipes and to coat electrical wiring; often these coatings would release fibers as they aged and began to crack. Those tiny asbestos fibers can be inhaled by plant workers and remain dormant in the lungs for decades. Former employees in chemical plants such as the ones owned by Rhodia could have been exposed in the past.