Foster Wheeler made boiler components, generators, and other heat and power-related machines with asbestos. Foster Wheeler faced thousands of lawsuits over worker exposure in a range of industries, including the military.
Foster Wheeler History and Asbestos
Foster Wheeler began in 1927 as a merger between two other companies: the Power Specialty Company, which was originally the Water Works Supply Company started by the Foster family in 1884, and the Wheeler Condenser & Engineering Company, founded in 1891.
- The original headquarters for the company was in New York City. Later, Foster Wheeler moved to New Jersey, Bermuda, and in 2008, Switzerland.
- Foster Wheeler eventually merged with British companies in similar industries, creating the Amec group. In 2014, Amec and Foster Wheeler came together to create a company specializing in international engineering, project delivery, power equipment, power consulting, and asset support.
- In 2017, the Wood Group bought Amec Foster Wheeler and merged it into its company.
- From the 1920s, Foster Wheeler designed and built oil refineries and petrochemical plants. In this process, the company made boilers and supplied equipment for fuel and power generation industries.
- Much of the company’s work involved high-heat work environments, which required the use of asbestos in many applications. In particular, Wheeler Condensing and Engineering used asbestos in boilers and steam generators.
- Foster Wheeler also supplied the military with many of these asbestos products. This contributed to the high risk of exposure and mesothelioma among U.S. Navy veterans.
Asbestos use led to lawsuits when workers and military personnel were diagnosed with conditions related to workplace exposure. Despite thousands of expensive lawsuits, Foster Wheeler did not file for bankruptcy protection or set up an asbestos trust fund.
How Did Foster Wheeler Use Asbestos?
The power industry often used asbestos in the past. Asbestos is a natural mineral well suited to industries that involve extreme heat. Asbestos is a natural insulator, resisting heat and maintaining durability in extreme temperatures.
Because Foster Wheeler made components and built facilities for the power industry, it prized asbestos for its heat-related qualities. It was used most often to insulate materials, like the components that go into boilers and wrap around pipes.
Foster Wheeler Asbestos Products
Some products used in the industry that often contained asbestos include:
- Steam generators
- Boiler components
- Refractory block insulation
- Marine boilers
- Surface condensers
- Steam drums
- Roving material
- Insulating cement
Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure from Foster Wheeler
Asbestos exposure is a serious health issue. Because asbestos is a fibrous material, tiny, needle-like fibers can easily come off, floating in the air and settling on surfaces. The fibers become part of the dust in a room or workspace, and people in the area may unknowingly inhale or ingest them.
Once inside the body, these fibers lodge in tissues, most often in and around the lungs. Once lodged, the fibers damage cells and over time can cause illnesses like mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, and other types of cancer.
Foster Wheeler Employees
In this way, Foster Wheeler possibly hurt thousands of people. Facility employees were at risk because they handled asbestos directly or were near areas asbestos was used.
These employees could easily inhale asbestos fibers. Their families may also have been affected by asbestos fibers carried home on work clothes and shoes.
Asbestos Exposure in Other Industries
Foster Wheeler’s asbestos use also endangered workers in other industries that used Foster Wheeler products:
- Power plant workers
- Mechanics and maintenance workers
- Shipyard workers
Men and women in the military were also exposed, particularly in the U.S. Navy. Foster Wheeler made marine boilers, and the US military was one of its top customers. Any workers on ships or in shipyards who built and repaired them were put at risk for asbestos exposure.
Asbestos Lawsuits Against Foster Wheeler
Because Foster Wheeler put so many people at risk, the company has faced many lawsuits over resulting illnesses.
- Foster Wheeler was a defendant in a case brought by a shipyard worker employed at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in the 1960s and 1970s. He worked in the boiler rooms of U.S. Navy ships and was exposed to asbestos through Foster Wheeler products.
- A court recently upheld a jury verdict for the wife of a man who worked in a Louisiana paper mill with Foster Wheeler boilers. Lynda Berry developed peritoneal mesothelioma and attributed it to the asbestos fibers her husband brought home on his clothing. The jury and court found Foster Wheeler liable for $2.25 million in damages.
- Valent Rabovsky worked as a millwright for many years, beginning in the 1950s. He later died from mesothelioma. He and his widow believed it was the products containing asbestos in his work that caused his illness. They sued Foster Wheeler and others for damages. A jury awarded Mrs. Rabovsky $1.085 million. It assigned 20% of the liability to Foster Wheeler.
- Richard Walmach worked near Foster Wheeler boilers during his career in the navy and as a civilian at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. He reported being around workers who used jackhammers to remove the insulation from the boilers. He breathed in the resulting asbestos dust and died from mesothelioma in 2006. His family sued Foster Wheeler and other companies and received $5.2 million. Foster Wheeler was liable for $2.66 million.
These are just a few examples of thousands of cases Foster Wheeler faced. Despite the high number of cases, Foster Wheeler did not face bankruptcy, so it never established an asbestos trust fund to pay settlements.
What to Do if You Were Exposed to Foster Wheeler Asbestos Products
If you believe your asbestos exposure and resulting illness came from Foster Wheeler products or workplaces, you can still seek compensation.
People who were exposed continue to receive diagnoses for which the company is liable. You can trust an experienced asbestos lawyer to help you file a lawsuit, allowing you to receive the compensation you deserve.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.