4 Min Read
Last Updated: 09/07/2023
Fact Checked

Written by Michelle Whitmer | Scientifically Reviewed By Arti Shukla, Ph.D. | Edited By Walter Pacheco

Fact Checked
Quick Facts About Asbestos in Kansas
  • grey clipboard with plus sign icon
    Ranking in Deaths:
    33rd
  • grey lungs icon
    Mesothelioma Deaths:
    410
  • silhouette of a head with three dots
    Asbestosis Deaths:
    N/A
  • grey triangle warning sign icon next to graph
    Total Deaths:
    410

Many other industries used asbestos in Kansas. Manufacturing plants, industrial sites and military bases used asbestos products and building materials.

Asbestos insulated machinery in the state’s first chemical plant, Harcros, founded in 1917 in Kansas City. Kansas City continued to open chemical and power plants over the following decades.

In December 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Compass Resources. It exposed workers to asbestos and other hazards. The contractor, based in Lakewood, Kansas, faces $223,000 in penalties.

Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. Kansas City has more occurrences of asbestos-related diseases than nearly every other city in the state.

Occupations at Risk in Kansas

Workers in Kansas’ large aircraft manufacturing and maintenance industry faced exposure at work. This industry mainly affected workers in Wichita, which is the “Air Capital of the World.”

The aircraft company Cessna has more than 8,000 employees in Wichita, making it one of the top employers in the city. It used asbestos in products such as airplane brakes. They dealt with significant friction and were regularly replaced. This use has led to mesothelioma in some former aircraft mechanics.

Boeing, the world’s leading aerospace company, also has a large presence in Kansas. It has been responsible for some of the state’s asbestos-related illnesses. With 14,000 current or former employees in Kansas, Boeing’s actions have an ongoing impact in statewide health.

When it came to asbestos legislation, however, Boeing stayed ahead of the curve. It began identifying and substituting asbestos materials in the late 1970s. By the early 1990s, asbestos was almost entirely eliminated from the company’s products.

Because the company was proactive, it tends to be immune to asbestos litigation. Most asbestos claims against the company are dismissed or settled out of court for a small amount.

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Jobsites with Known Asbestos Exposure

Aircraft

  • Boeing
  • Trans World Airlines, Inc.
  • Cessna Aircraft Company

Chemical Companies

  • Chemical Sealing Corporation
  • Harcros Chemical Incorporated

Insulation Manufacturer

Other Sites

  • American Salt Company
  • Kansas City Power & Light
  • Dodson Manufacturing Company
  • Mid-America Refining Company (MARCO)

Mid-America Refining Company

The Mid-America Refining Company, or MARCO, was a petroleum refinery in Chanute that operated from the 1940s to 1981. It used asbestos throughout the refinery to insulate high-heat machines and processes.

This put refinery workers at risk of asbestos exposure. After 1981, the site was abandoned and became an environmental hazard. Leftover oil and petroleum products began contaminating surrounding soil and groundwater.

In 1994 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigated the site and found asbestos. It initiated an immediate cleanup effort, which ended in the late 1990s. As part of the cleanup, the agency removed nearly 190,000 tons of contaminated soil.

Between 1981 and the 1994 inspection, the MARCO facility was an ongoing threat to public health. The contaminants were not publicly known, and the area was readily accessible to nearby residents.

Neighborhood children even used the abandoned area as a playground. These individuals may have been exposed to any number of hazardous materials, including the facility’s asbestos.

Asbestos Abatement in Kansas Jails

In 2005 and 2006 the Kansas Department of Corrections, or KDC, renovated a Topeka prison dormitory. Before beginning the abatement project, the KDC did not inspect for asbestos, which violated the Clean Air Act.

The department also failed to take necessary precautions such as providing respirators and training. The KDC allocated $170,000 to check for asbestos materials in other corrections facilities. Workers inspected pipe insulation, floor and ceiling tiles and other construction materials likely to contain asbestos. Workers then removed any materials found to contain the mineral.

If you’ve been exposed to asbestos, make sure to tell your primary care physician about your exposure history. Your doctor can keep a close watch on your pulmonary health and may conduct tests to screen for early signs of asbestos-related disease.

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