Asbestos Product Companies
In the past, thousands of companies used asbestos in their manufacturing processes, equipment and machinery, products, and facilities. Asbestos has a number of unique and useful properties, including its strength, light weight, and resistance to electricity, heat, and fire. Only later, after millions were exposed to asbestos, was it discovered this common and useful mineral was dangerous to human health.
Today, these companies have gone out of business, reorganized after bankruptcy protection, or continued operation after removing asbestos from product lineups. Many companies face asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits brought by former employees or product users. The expense of these lawsuits have forced numerous companies to create asbestos trust funds to compensate victims.
The Asbestos Industry
Asbestos has been used for millennia, however it wasn’t until the early 20th century that it was used extensively. Asbestos is a natural fibrous mineral. Made of tiny fibers. asbestos is useful for adding strength to materials, insulating, and preventing 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. 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
In the 1970s, the government placed restrictions on asbestos use. These restrictions enforce acceptable workplace asbestos levels and also determined safe levels of airborne asbestos fibers. The health risks of asbestos were discovered those restrictions were enacted, however.
What we know now is asbestos fibers can float in the form of dust allowing them to be inhaled or ingested. When this happens, fibers become lodged in body tissue, especially in and around the lungs. Once lodged, these tiny fibers cause irritation and cell damage. For some, this damage eventually leads to illnesses like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
Today, there is ample evidence many of the largest asbestos manufacturers knew of the health risks, but hid these facts. For example, there are files and memos from Johns-Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan dating to the 1930s indicating executives knew asbestos exposure was harming workers. They later suppressed this information, refusing to take measures to protect employees. Johns-Manville even had an official policy that extended into the 1970s. These policies included concealing that employee health screenings revealed lung scarring characteristic of asbestosis.
This case proves that many companies were aware of the health risks associated with industrial asbestos use. However, the death blow for asbestos came in a 1964 study. In that study, a researcher published information making a clear connection between cancer, asbestosis, and asbestos insulation.
There were many companies in the asbestos industry, from mining to manufacturing. All these companies put people at risk of health issues associated with asbestos exposure. Some no longer exist. Others emerged from bankruptcy protection as new, asbestos-free companies. Many former asbestos companies have paid millions in settlements and formed asbestos trusts to pay victims.
- 3M, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company
- ABB Lummus Global, Inc.
- A.P. Green Industry
- The Abex Corporation
- Amatex Corporation
- Armstrong World Industries
- Babcock, Wilcox & Company
- Bell Asbestos Mines
- Bestwall Gypsum
- BorgWarner Incorporated
- C. E. Thurston Company
- Celotex Corporation
- CertainTeed Corporation
- Combustion Engineering (CE)
- Congoleum Corporation
- Crown Cork & Seal
- Dana Corporation
- EaglePicher Industries Inc.
- Ehret Magnesia Manufacturing Company
- Federal-Mogul Corporation
- The Flintkote Company
- The Ford Motor Company
- Foster Wheeler
- General Aniline and Film (GAF) Corporation
- Georgia Pacific
- Garlock Sealing Technologies
- General Electric
- General Motors (GM)
- Gold Bond
- H.K. Porter Inc.
- Harbison-Walker Refractories Company
- Honeywell Heating Specialty Co.
- Ingersoll Rand
- International Paper
- J.H. France Refractories Co., Inc.
- J.T. Thorpe and Son, Inc.
- John Crane Company
- Johns Manville
- Kaiser Aluminum
- Kentile Floors
- Leslie Controls
- Lincoln Electric Company
- M.H. Detrick Company
- Malleable Iron Range Co.
- Mergenthaler Linotype Company
- Mobil Oil Corporation
- National Gypsum
- National Automotive Parts Association
- The Nicolet Company
- North American Refractories Company (NARCO)
- Owens Corning Corporation
- P & H Mining
- Philadelphia Asbestos Corporation
- Pittsburgh Corning
- Plibrico Company
- Porter Hayden Company
- Rapid American Corporation (Philip Carey Manufacturing Corp.)
- Raybestos Industries
- Republic Powdered Metals (RPM Industries)
- Rock Wool Manufacturing Company
- Riley Stoker Corporation
- Rutland Fire Clay Company
- Shook and Fletcher
- Synkoloid Company
- Turner & Newall
- Union Asbestos and Rubber Company (UNARCO)
- Union Carbide
- W.R. Grace & Co.
- Western MacArthur Company
- Westinghouse Electric Company
Asbestos companies have faced thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of lawsuits due to asbestos exposure and resulting illnesses. Company employees, as well workers in other facilities using their products, have gotten sick. Also, U.S. Navy veterans working on ships with asbestos materials and people living near asbestos company facilities have developed illnesses related to asbestos use. Many have filed lawsuits for justice and compensation.
Lawsuits have cost companies millions, sometimes billions, in settlement pay outs. Some cases were standouts due to precedents set or because they resulted in huge individual settlements. In 2005, for example, U.S. Steel was found negligent in the death of a worker from mesothelioma. The company was found to hold liability in the case and was ordered to pay the worker’s widow $250 million. Of that amount $200 million was for punitive damages.
Asbestos Trust Funds
While some asbestos companies were able to limit settlement amounts, many were forced to close or reorganize with Chapter 11 protection. These businesses were required to create asbestos trust funds as a condition of bankruptcy protection. Trusts funds were set up to ensure there would be funds to cover damages for victims, even if the company ceased to exist.
Asbestos trust funds have varied in size and format depending on company size and expected number of future cases. Some trust funds, including those set up by Johns Manville, Owens Corning Corporation, USG Corporation and others, were funded with several billion dollars. Others are smaller with only a few million dollars.
If you worked for an asbestos company, or you believe your asbestos exposure can be traced to one of these companies, you may have a case. A mesothelioma lawyer can determine if you have a strong case, as well as help collect evidence and take you through steps necessary for seeking justice and compensation.
Page Edited by Dave Foster
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