While Ehret Magnesia is no longer in business, at one time, the company made several asbestos-containing products, including pipes and insulation. Many workers and people who used the products became sick after exposure to asbestos. Keene Corporation, the company that bought Ehret, took on liability for thousands of claimants and had to reorganize under bankruptcy protection and create an asbestos trust fund.
Ehret Magnesia Manufacturing Company was founded in 1897. The company manufactured various products but was most successful with its Durocel and Thermalite asbestos-insulated pipes. In the past, a variety of materials used asbestos for its insulating ability.
Many companies used asbestos because it is inexpensive, readily available, and has natural properties that protect against heat, fire, and electrical currents.
One of Ehret’s primary manufacturing sites sat in the Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania. Ehret bought several limestone mines in the area, setting up a factory that operated through the 1970s.
Investigators later discovered the company had also dumped toxic waste, including asbestos, in the nearby Schuylkill River and surrounding areas.
Using limestone mined in the area, as well as asbestos, Ehret expanded its product lineup to include a range of construction materials.
Company records indicate executives may have known that asbestos was causing workers to develop respiratory illnesses, including lung cancer, as early as the 1940s; however, the company did nothing to warn or protect their employees.
In 1959, Ehret Magnesia merged with Baldwin-Hill. The new company, Baldwin-Ehret-Hill, was acquired by the Keene Corporation in 1968. While Keene did not manufacture asbestos products, it did sell them through its new subsidiary, taking on liability as a result.
In 1976, the National Park Service bought the manufacturing plant and surrounding area in Valley Forge. In 1993, facing thousands of asbestos lawsuits, Keene filed for bankruptcy and emerged in 1996 with a trust fund to compensate victims.
Asbestos Use in Ehret Products
Ehret made several products using asbestos. Its most popular asbestos product was thermally insulated pipe. Along with Baldwin-Hill, the company also made asbestos cements, blocks, and millboards. Some examples of specific branded products are:
- Thermalite insulation
- Ehret Enduro High Temperature Blocks
- Ehret asbestos millboard
- Baldwin Mono-Block asbestos covering
- Ehret Asbestos Sponge Felt
- Ehret asbestos wick and rope
- Valley Forge asbestos sheets, gaskets, and packings
Occupational Asbestos Exposure
Ehret products caused extensive occupational asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a harmful mineral because it is comprised of tiny, needle-like fibers. When inhaled, these sharp fibers can become loaded in the body and cause serious damage to tissues and organs.
Because asbestos fibers are so small, they easily float as airborne dust. Without proper protective gear, workers can inhale the fibers. Inside the body, the fibers cause damage that may eventually lead to a diagnosis of mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis.
The products Ehret and its successors manufactured harmed plant workers. The company noticed workers were getting respiratory illnesses and even cancer, yet it failed to warn of a possible connection between their illnesses and the asbestos in its products.
These workers may even have contaminated their families, bringing home dangerous asbestos fibers on their clothes, shoes, and hair. Further contamination came from asbestos waste the company illegally dumped at the Valley Forge site. Even workers who did not handle asbestos directly risked exposure due to this illegal dumping.
Other workers also experienced asbestos exposure through Ehret products. Workers at risk of exposure included pipefitters, insulation workers, shipyard workers, and other construction workers.
Anyone who installed, repaired, removed, or replaced Ehret asbestos products and materials could have been exposed to dangerous asbestos fibers. Ehret products were used by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard on ships, putting military personnel at risk as well.
Valley Forge Dumping and Cleanup
In 1997, workers at the Valley Forge Park found asbestos while running fiber optic cables. Soil contamination traced back to Ehret’s manufacturing plant.
A subsequent investigation found the company had illegally dumped waste, including asbestos, for decades. The waste was largely dumped into abandoned mining quarries and the Schuylkill River.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came in to clean up the site. The area was fenced off, and the soil watered down to prevent asbestos fibers from getting into the air.
The official EPA cleanup concluded the same year; however, there are ongoing efforts to monitor for remaining contamination that could harm visitors, workers, or nearby residents.
Asbestos Lawsuits and Keene’s Asbestos Trust Fund
Keene Corporation took on liability for Ehret’s asbestos products and resulting exposure when it bought Baldwin-Ehret-Hill. Lawsuits over asbestos illnesses were filed as early as the 1970s. Keene settled thousands of cases; however, claims and lawsuits continued, costing Keene millions of dollars.
In another case, a worker at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard sued Keene and several other manufacturers over his asbestosis. For decades, he worked on a number of ships and submarines and handled Ehret’s products. The jury awarded him a large settlement, part of which had to be paid by Keene.
As these lawsuits continued to accumulate, Keene suffered a financial crisis. More than 100,000 claims forced the company to seek bankruptcy protection in 1993. In 1996, Keene emerged reorganized with a trust fund founded to handle claims over Ehret products that caused asbestos-related illnesses.
If you believe your asbestos-related illness can be attributed to Ehret products, you can now file a claim through the Keene Creditors Trust. A mesothelioma and asbestos lawyer can guide you through the process of filing a claim. With their help, you may have a better chance of winning a settlement to cover medical and other expenses.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
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.