Bestwall Gypsum made construction and building products for many years and was eventually bought by Georgia-Pacific, the large paper manufacturer. Bestwall still operates today as a part of that bigger company, headquartered in Atlanta. Many of the products that Bestwall made for many years contained asbestos, which caused workers and others to be exposed and some to develop diseases like mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Unlike many companies that used asbestos in its products, Bestwall did not have to file for bankruptcy protection. This means it also did not have to set up an asbestos trust fund to pay claimants. It managed to survive the lawsuits filed by victims of exposure and may still face some of these claims in the future as more diagnoses of asbestos-related illnesses are made.
Bestwall Gypsum was a drywall product used in the construction industry. Its origins come from the first gypsum wallboard ever manufactured. It was called Beaver Products’ Bestwall. The product was bought by CertainTeed Corporation in 1928, a major manufacturer and distributor of gypsum products at the time. Bestwall continued to grow in popularity throughout the 1940s and 1950s, through a post-war construction boom.
Because of this success, CertainTeed spun off a new company, called Bestwall Gypsum. So, although the product had been around for decades, the company Bestwall Gypsum didn’t actually exist until CertainTeed created it in 1961. Bestwall Gypsum did not stop at producing its famous wallboard. It also expanded the product line to include other, similar construction materials, like joint compound and spackle.
In 1965, Georgia Pacific, most known for making paper products, but also a manufacturer of construction materials, bought Bestwall Gypsum Company to add its Bestwall products to its lineup. Although the risks of asbestos to human health were becoming well-known, Georgia Pacific continued to manufacture materials with asbestos until the regulations of the 1970 made it more difficult. For many years, Bestwall Gypsum products contained significant amounts of asbestos. Bestwall and Georgia Pacific are now facing lawsuits over asbestos, but have not been overwhelmed to the point of needing to declare bankruptcy or reorganize.
Bestwall’s Asbestos Products
Bestwall was successful for producing just a handful of products using mostly the mineral gypsum. Gypsum is a hydrated calcium sulfate mineral that has long been used to make drywall, wallboard, plaster, and similar materials for construction. Before the 1970s, most of these gypsum products had asbestos fibers mixed in. This was done to strengthen the material or to and insulating and fireproofing properties. The amount used varied from one product or brand to the next.
Bestwall Gypsum wallboard, joint compounds, and spackle all contained asbestos. Georgia Pacific also made other construction products with asbestos, including drywall adhesives, lite acoustic plater, topping compound, patching plaster, wall and ceiling texture, bedding compound, laminating ready mix, and Kalite. These products contained asbestos until 1977 when the company stopped using it in their manufacturing.
Occupations and People at Risk for Exposure to Asbestos
The use of asbestos in Bestwall Gypsum products and Georgia Pacific construction materials put a lot of people at risk of asbestos exposure and resulting illness. Anyone who worked or lived around asbestos was at risk. If asbestos is not well contained, its tiny fibers can easily come lose and contaminate the air, water, soil, and can settle with dust on surfaces. People around it may breathe in the fibers or even consume them. In some people, this leads to tissue damage that can cause serious and fatal diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.
Some of the people at the greatest risk of exposure from Bestwall products were the workers who made them. These people may have spent years, or decades, handling and working around asbestos. Any workers who used the Bestwall products in other lines of work, especially construction, were also at risk. And it wasn’t just the drywall installers who could have been exposed. Any of the construction professionals working on a job with asbestos materials could have inhaled the fibers: plumbers, carpenters, painters, carpet installers, electricians.
Today, even though asbestos is not used in these products anymore, certain workers are still at risk of exposure. Buildings made before the early1980s may contain Bestwall and other asbestos products. Workers doing maintenance, repair, or renovations may disturb this old asbestos and become exposed. Especially at risk are demolition workers because they stir up so much dust when taking down buildings.
After years of exposure, workers and others began to file lawsuits against Bestwall Gypsum and Georgia Pacific. Thousands of asbestos-related lawsuits came flooding in from people who got sick and discovered they had been exposed through either of these companies or their products. One famous case against Bestwall and Georgia Pacific came from mesothelioma victim, retired NFL player, and actor Merlin Olsen.
Olsen received a diagnosis of mesothelioma in 2009 and he blamed time spent around products made by Georgia Pacific and Bestwall. He worked as a manual laborer as a young teen and later worked at NBC as a broadcaster and on television sets as an actor. In all of these situations he claimed that he had been exposed to asbestos products. He died before the case could be settled but his wife continued it in his name and reached a settlement agreement in 2011.
Bestwall and Georgia Pacific have so far survived the assault of asbestos lawsuits brought by victims of exposure and illness. Unlike similar companies, they have been able to settle cases without needing bankruptcy protection. This means there is no asbestos trust fund for the companies. If you were exposed to asbestos through either company and you are now sick as a result, you can rely on a mesothelioma lawyer to help you file a lawsuit that may bring you the compensation you need. Without professional guidance it can be very challenging to navigate the legal system and very easy to make the mistakes that cause lawsuits to fail.
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