Combustion Engineering and Asbestos
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Combustion Engineering made asbestos-containing equipment for burning fossil fuels, including boilers, stokers, and coal pulverizing equipment, often with asbestos. In 1990, the company was acquired by ABB Group. Combustion Engineering faced numerous lawsuits over asbestos exposure, forcing it to reorganize with an asbestos trust fund under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Combustion Engineering History and Asbestos Use
Combustion Engineering was founded in 1912 when American Stoker Company merged with Grieve Grate Company.
- The newly merged company operated headquarters in Manhattan, though they eventually moved it to Stamford, Connecticut. These two companies were well-known for producing equipment for burning fuel, like stokers.
- Combustion Engineering acquired boiler companies in 1925 and began producing boilers and related equipment. Beginning in the 1930s, Combustion Engineering incorporated asbestos in its boilers.
- From boilers, Combustion Engineering expanded into related industries. In the 1930s, the company worked on improving railroad steam engines.
- After a merger with Superheater Company, Combustion Engineering also produced assemblies for coal-burning and nuclear power plants. During World War II, the company manufactured boilers for Navy ships to contribute to the war effort.
- In the 1960s, Combustion Engineering switched from using asbestos parts made by other companies to making its own asbestos components. These included insulation.
- Over the years, Combustion Engineering continued to expand its product lineup to include cement, plastics, recycling equipment, and nuclear power equipment.
- In 1990, Combustion Engineering was bought by ABB Group, a large electrical equipment manufacturer and engineering firm. Combustion Engineering stopped using asbestos in 1990, but ABB still faced liability and claims from decades of exposure.
- In 2003, ABB and Combustion Engineering filed for bankruptcy. In 2005, it formed an asbestos trust fund to handle claims.
After a few other mergers and acquisitions, Combustion Engineering ended up as a subsidiary of a company of Alstom, which was partly bought by GE Power in 2015. GE does not make Combustion Engineering boilers but does service them.
How Did Combustion Engineering Use Asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural mineral used for years in a variety of industries. Mined from abundant deposits, this inexpensive mineral was commonly used for its unique properties. Asbestos naturally heat and fire. It is a useful insulator in industries that operate with high temperatures.
As a manufacturer of boilers and other steam products, asbestos was an ideal material for insulating and sealing components. Combustion Engineering used asbestos in its products from the 1930s through the 1980s.
Combustion Engineering Asbestos Products
During its years of business, Combustion Engineering manufactured several products that used asbestos. These included:
- Insulating cement
- Casing cement
- Hard top insulating cement
- Kaiser plastic insulating cement
- Fireproofing cement
- Thermal finish cement
- Asbestos ropes
- Weatherkote coating, thermal coat, and duriseal
- Expansion joint material
- Asbestos ropes
Who Was Exposed to Asbestos from Combustion Engineering Products?
Asbestos is potentially dangerous because it produces tiny fibers when it breaks apart. When these fibers become airborne and settle as dust, they can be easily inhaled or ingested. These fibers become lodged in the body’s tissues, most often in or around the lungs, causing damage on a cellular level.
Over time, some people exposed in this way develop illnesses like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. In most cases, the illness is progressive and incurable.
Combustion Engineering Employees
Because Combustion Engineering incorporated asbestos into many of its products, those who worked for the company during that time risked exposure. Even workers who did not directly handle asbestos could have been exposed.
Workers in Other Industries
In addition to Combustion Engineering employees, all workers who handled, installed, maintained, or replaced their products were put at risk. This included workers in construction, manufacturing, industrial plants, and more.
Those working in power plants, construction workers, and even workers in railroads and shipyards may have used Combustion Engineering asbestos products. This includes Navy personnel who used boilers and other products during and after World War II.
Secondhand Exposure from Combustion Engineering Products
Another at-risk group that is often overlooked is the family of people who worked around asbestos. Before they know about the dangers, workers often brought asbestos fibers home on their clothing.
Some family members of workers who handled Combustion Engineering products experienced secondhand exposure to asbestos and got sick. These exposure victims may be eligible for compensation.
Asbestos Lawsuits against Combustion Engineering
When ABB Group acquired Combustion Engineering, it took on its liabilities, including thousands of asbestos lawsuits. In the 1990s, the company faced many claims brought by exposure victims through Combustion Engineering products.
By 2002, the company had over 110,000 asbestos-related cases pending. After paying nearly $1 billion in settlements, ABB was forced to seek bankruptcy protection in 2003. The company emerged from reorganization in 2006.
These are some examples of the lawsuits involving Combustion Engineering asbestos exposure:
- Wayne Jackson was a pipefitter for Combustion Engineering in Tennessee. He worked at Combustion Engineering from 1952 through 1986 and was exposed to asbestos. After Jackson died from mesothelioma, his wife filed a lawsuit against several asbestos companies. Most of the defendants settled, but Jackson went to trial against a company called North Brothers and won a jury award of $1.4 million.
- Glenn Taylor worked as a shipfitter for 30 years. He developed mesothelioma a few years after retiring in 1980. Taylor filed a lawsuit against several companies responsible for exposing him to asbestos and received multiple settlements. This included $17,500 from Combustion Engineering.
- Jerold Anderson worked with Combustion Engineering boilers at Wisconsin Electric Power Company. He died from mesothelioma, and his wife filed wrongful death lawsuits against several asbestos companies. She settled with most of them, but went to court against Combustion Engineering. The jury found the company 29% liable, but it was able to get that verdict overturned in 2002.
The Combustion Engineering Asbestos PI Trust
Part of ABB’s reorganization agreement was the creation of an asbestos trust fund to handle remaining and future claims. The Combustion Engineering Asbestos Personal Injury Trust was formed in 2005. This trust was funded with over $1.4 billion.
ABB Group and its Combustion Engineering division continue to make products without asbestos; however, this does not change the suffering of those who worked for the company or used their products. Decades of asbestos use have already taken their toll.
What to Do if You Were Exposed to Combustion Engineering Asbestos
If you or a loved one was affected by Combustion Engineering’s use of asbestos, you have recourse to seek compensation for your suffering and medical expenses. An experienced asbestos or mesothelioma lawyer can determine if you have a case and walk you through filing with the asbestos trust fund.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Written by Mary Ellen Ellis
Mary Ellen Ellis has been the head writer for Mesothelioma.net since 2016. With hundreds of mesothelioma and asbestos articles to her credit, she is one of the most experienced writers on these topics. Her degrees and background in science and education help her explain complicated medical topics for a wider audience. Mary Ellen takes pride in providing her readers with the critical information they need following a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.