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Asbestos Product Companies

 Thousands of companies in the past used asbestos in their manufacturing processes, in their equipment and machinery, in the products they made, and in the facilities in which people worked. Asbestos was used in a variety of ways because of its unique properties: resistance to electricity and heat, fireproofing, and lightweight strength. The discovery that this mineral was also devastatingly harmful to human health only came later, decades after these companies thrived and exposed millions to asbestos.

Today, these companies have either gone out of business, reorganized after receiving bankruptcy protection, or have managed to continue operating after removing asbestos from product lineups. Many have faced asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits brought by former employees or workers that used their products and some have been forced to create asbestos trust funds that compensate victims even if a company has gone out of business.

The Asbestos Industry

Asbestos has been used for millennia, but it wasn’t until the early 20th century that industrial workplaces started using it heavily. Asbestos is a natural mineral, or more accurately a group of minerals, that is fibrous. It is made up of tiny fibers and it is useful for adding strength to materials, insulating against heat or electricity, and preventing fires and the spread of fire. Asbestos is readily available, which made it an inexpensive, as well as useful, material.

Asbestos mining was at the heart of the asbestos industry, where the mineral came from. Asbestos mines existed in various parts of the U.S. and in Canada and supplied many companies who used it. The use of asbestos in workplaces included the construction of facilities. Asbestos was used extensively in insulating factories and other buildings, especially around boilers and furnaces. Many companies also used asbestos to insulate parts in machinery and equipment.

There have also been many companies that used asbestos in the products they made. Firebricks, insulation, machinery, automotive parts, construction materials, fireproof textiles, ship parts and materials, and many other products were made for decades with asbestos. Workers who handled the asbestos to make the products, workers in other industries who used the products, and even people living in homes with asbestos-containing products and materials, were all put at risk of being exposed to asbestos.

Discovering the Health Risks of Asbestos

The U.S. government put restrictions on how and where asbestos could be used, on the acceptable levels of workplace exposure to asbestos, and on the acceptable levels of fibers of asbestos that could be in the air in the 1970s. The health risks of asbestos were discovered long before that, though.

What we know now is that asbestos can create dust through the small fibers that break away from the mineral. People can easily inhale or ingest these fibers. When this happens they may get lodged in tissues in the body, especially in and around the lungs, and cause damage. In some people this damage leads decades later to illnesses like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

There is now plenty of evidence that many of the biggest manufacturers of asbestos products knew about the health risks to their employees and others, but hid these facts. There are files and memos, for instance, from Johns-Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan that date back to the 1930s and indicate that executives in these companies knew that asbestos exposure was harming workers. They later suppressed this information and took no steps to protect their workers. Johns-Manville even had an official policy that extended into the 1970s of not telling workers that their health screenings revealed scarring in the lungs characteristic of asbestosis.

So, while many companies and individuals were aware that there were health risks associated with the industrial use of asbestos, the death blow for asbestos came in a 1964 study. A researcher found and published information about a clear connection between cancer and asbestosis and working with asbestos insulation. The study came out at a time when other researchers were finding similar result. It was a big blow to the entire asbestos industry.

Asbestos Companies

There were many companies in the asbestos industry, from mining companies who provided the world with the mineral, to companies that made asbestos-containing materials. All of these companies put workers and others at risk of the health hazards of asbestos exposure. Some of them no longer exist now, while others emerged from bankruptcy protection as new, asbestos-free companies. Many former asbestos companies have paid millions of dollars in settlements and many have formed asbestos trusts to pay victims.

Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos companies like these have faced thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of lawsuits each because of asbestos exposure and resulting illnesses. Workers at these companies, workers in other facilities who used their products, U.S. Navy veterans who worked on ships with asbestos materials and even people who lived near asbestos company facilities have gotten sick from the asbestos they used and many chose to file lawsuits for justice and compensation.

The lawsuits have cost these companies millions and sometimes billions of dollars in settlement pay outs. Some cases were standouts because they set precedents or because they resulted in huge individual settlements. For example, in 2005, U.S. Steel was found negligent in the illness and death of a worker from mesothelioma. The company was found to hold all of the liability in the case and was ordered to pay the worker’s widow $250 million, a huge amount in asbestos cases. Of that amount $200 million was for punitive damages.

Asbestos Trust Funds

While some asbestos companies were able to limit settlement amounts of were able to afford them without going bankrupt, many others were forced to go out of business or reorganize with Chapter 11 protection. These were required to create asbestos trust funds as a condition of that protection. The trusts funds were set up to make sure that there would be enough money, despite what happened to a company, to cover damages for victims at the time and in the future.

The asbestos trust funds have varied in size and amount of money in them, depending on the size of the company and the expected number of future cases of asbestos-related illnesses. Some of the trust funds, including those set up by Johns Manville, Owens Corning Corporation, USG Corporation and others, were funded with several billion dollars. Others are much smaller with only a few million dollars.

If you worked for an asbestos company, or you believe that your asbestos exposure can be traced back to one of these companies, you may have a case or a reason to file a claim with an asbestos trust fund. A mesothelioma lawyer can help you determine if you have a strong case, collect evidence, and take you through all the necessary steps for seeking and winning compensation.

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