The Durez facility in North Tonawanda was a chemical and plastics factory which manufactured and produced plastic molding compound containing raw asbestos fibers as a filler. Durez was also heavily insulated with asbestos-containing insulation material. Former Durez workers describe the yards and alley-ways between the manufacturing buildings as being covered with asbestos dust.. Asbestos dust flew all over the vicinity of the buildings where asbestos was used as a raw material, contaminating the workers in the buildings and anyone working in the outside areas. It was often so dusty inside of the buildings that it was difficult to see across the interior of the production units. According to many workers interviewed about the conditions of the plant, some days the asbestos dust would come down from roof top dust collectors and windows in the manufacturing buildings just like snow.
Air currents carry asbestos dust wide distances. According to industrial hygiene studies, concentrations of asbestos fibers have been detected in the air as far as one- half mile from a construction site.
The best measure of exposure to asbestos in a given population is the prevalence of asbestos-related X-ray abnormalities among workers as well as the number of confirmed cases of mesothelioma.
Occidental Chemical Corporation, the company which owned the Durez facility in North Tonawanda, has been running a medical screening program since 1986 for Durez workers who were exposed to asbestos in the 1970s and earlier. This screening program has detected X-ray abnormalities in a large percentage of the workers. Tragically, the number of documented mesothelioma cases arising from exposure at Durez has been rising at an alarming rate. As of 1992, nine cases of mesothelioma had been discovered, with the first case showing up in 1980. As of the beginning of 2000, there were approximately thirty-three confirmed cases of mesothelioma, and now the total is closer to forty.
The medical screening program run by Occidental Chemical Corporation is open to workers and their spouses. If you were married to a Durez worker exposed to asbestos at the plant at any time prior to 1979, you should consider contacting the Occidental medical scheduling office on 25 Falconer Street in North Tonawanda to arrange for an immediate screening. If you are already enrolled in the program, you should take full advantage of it.
The program includes a regular physical exam, breathing tests, and X-ray or CT of the chest and lungs. (The program is not currently open to the children of the workers, even if they helped to do the family laundry. If you believe that your children were exposed in this manner, your family doctor or health maintenance organization can make a referral to a lung specialist). The increasing number of mesothelioma cases among the Durez work force is a matter of concern for all Durez workers and their families, As the numbers go up, it is also a matter of concern for neighborhood residents. The plant continued to use raw asbestos in the manufacturing process through the end of 1978. Neighborhood residents have reported that they recall seeing fields outside of the plant contaminated with dust, including Ramsey Field where little league activities were conducted in the 1960s and 1970s.
If you lived near the Durez facility any time before 1979, you may be at risk. You should consider sharing this information with your doctor.