Former workers at vinyl chloride plant shaken by cancer deaths

Home (Main Menu)

The Associated Press, 11/29/98

HOUSTON (AP) -- During the 1980s, General Tire workers in an Ohio resin plant were overexposed to vinyl chloride long after the federal government set strict exposure limits, documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle reveal.

Former workers have fallen ill of angiosarcoma, a cancer that can be traced to the chemical exposure, the newspaper reported Sunday in a copyright story.

From 1954 until 1984, about 135 employees worked at what was then a PVC or polyvinyl chloride resin plant owned by General Tire & Rubber Co. in Ashtabula, Ohio.

The first case of angiosarcoma was diagnosed in 1983.

While the victim, Bill Price, unexpectedly survived, he claims he was tailed off and on for years by a private investigator retained by General Tire, renamed GenCorp in 1984.

The company was trying to prove that Price did not deserve the full disability benefits he had been awarded by the state of Ohio, he said.

Rosemary Younts, a GenCorp spokeswoman, told The Associated Press Sunday night that she could not comment because the matter was in litigation.

Joseph Succi, another of the original General Tire workers, died in January 1989. And this year, Francis McKinley, was the latest victim diagnosed with angiosarcoma. He died on Aug. 23.

McKinley's is the third confirmed case to come out of a now-abandoned PVC resin plant run for 30 years by Akron-based General Tire and another nine years by a company called Vygen.

Now GenCorp finds itself a defendant in a conspiracy lawsuit in Lake Charles, La., against 32 vinyl chloride and PVC manufacturers.

While GenCorp is under a court order to disclose every case of cancer that has occurred among former plant employees, the company claims it has lost track of employee medical records.

The lead plaintiff's attorney, William Baggett Jr., has moved that the company be held in contempt.

Baggett alleges that GenCorp and 31 other firms agreed to cover up evidence of vinyl chloride's toxicity and to water down an industry-funded, nationwide worker-mortality study.

Indeed, a General Tire memorandum dated Oct. 3, 1980, confirms that there were numerous equipment leaks in the plant's polymer building and that some vinyl chloride readings exceeded 10,000 parts per million -- 2,000 times the short-term OSHA limit.

Today, the plant in Ashtabula, a city of 22,000 on Lake Erie, is an abandoned and decaying shell. Gaping holes in one building denote where the 18 reactors were pulled out to be sold for scrap.

GenCorp, by contrast, is very much alive. ...

C The Associated Press, 1998

Styrene Problem


Back to the top