Gold Bond and National Gypsum Company
Gold Bond gypsum wallboard is a product made by National Gypsum Company. The product and brand line has been around since the 1920s and since then has been one of the most popular brands of products used in construction. Also popular in construction for many years was the use of asbestos in making materials like wallboard.
National Gypsum’s Gold Bond products contained asbestos for the lightweight strength, insulation, and fireproofing properties it provided. Until the risks of asbestos exposure were known, most construction materials manufacturers used the mineral, but Gold Bond had a far-reaching effect on workers, construction laborers and others. The result was that many people got sick and the company faced thousands of lawsuits.
About Gold Bond and National Gypsum
Today National Gypsum produces more gypsum board than most other similar companies in the world. It is the second largest gypsum board producer in the U.S. The headquarters of the company are located in Charlotte, North Carolina. The gypsum board is sold under the Gold Bond brand name. After reorganizing under bankruptcy, emerging, and acquiring other companies, National Gypsum now operates three main brand lines of products. These are the Gold Bond gypsum board, PermaBase cement board, and ProForm drywall finishing products.
The history of National Gypsum begins with the founding in 1925 by Joseph F. Haggerty, Clarence E. Williams, and Melvin H. Baker. These three men formed the company in order to manufacture and sell an innovative new type of wallboard for use in construction. The wallboard was advertised as lighter than the competition, yet strong, and was branded with the Gold Bond guarantee. This meant that each shipment of the wallboard went out with a $5,000 “Gold Bond” that promised customers the money if they could find a better gypsum wallboard product. Eventually the Gold Bond name became a brand and trademark.
National Gypsum quickly became a successful company and one of the biggest producers of construction wallboard. It also expanded its product line and included acoustic tiles, rock wool, plaster, adhesives, siding, plastic panels, stucco, texture paint, cement, and fireproof products, many of which contained asbestos. In 1990 the company was forced into bankruptcy because of the weight of asbestos litigation brought by victims of exposure. It emerged in 1993 as the self-described new National Gypsum Company, still selling the Gold Bond product lineup. The company stopped using asbestos in all its products in the 1970s.
Use of Asbestos
Many of National Gypsum’s products contained asbestos at one point in time, but it was the flagship brand and product, Gold Bond, that used the most asbestos and potentially caused the most harm. Gypsum is a natural mineral and was and still is the main component in Gold Bond and other types of wallboard. Gypsum itself is harmless and is used in a variety of products. The problem is that for many years, Gold Bond wallboard also contained some percentage of asbestos. Asbestos adds strength, insulation, and fireproofing, and for these reasons it was used extensively in many construction materials before the real harm of asbestos was realized.
At one point in time nearly every Gold Bond product that National Gypsum made contained asbestos to some degree. These include plasters, siding, asbestos cement board, texture paint, fire-shield plaster, asbestos panels, plasticrylic panels, joint compounds, and products called Abestone, Permaboard, and Sprayolite. National Gypsum also made E-Z Soak, Gypsolite, Flexfelt, Thermotec, and other non-Gold Bond brand products with asbestos before the 1970s.
The use of asbestos in these Gold Bond products put a lot of people at risk for serious health problems including mesothelioma and lung cancer, as well as the lung condition called asbestosis. Workers who handled or were even just working around these products were put at risk of being exposed to and inhaling or ingesting the tiny fibers of asbestos that can become loose and airborne. These tiny fibers lodge in tissues in the body and cause damage over many years. Some people get sick as a result, while others do not.
Some of the workers put at the greatest risk from these products were construction workers. Those that used Gold Bond products, especially the wallboard, were at risk of damaging the products and exposing the harmful asbestos. Workers who sanded the board were at particular risk and created harmful dust around themselves and other construction workers in the area. Also at risk were family members of construction workers. These workers often brought home fibers on their clothing and exposed their loved ones as a result.
Beginning in the 1970s, National Gypsum began to see litigation over its Gold Bond products. Some of these didn’t even involve any cases of personal injury. For instance, in 1985, Mercer University sued National Gypsum and similar companies for selling the school asbestos-containing materials, which later had to be replaced at cost. The school was awarded more than $100,000 from Gold Bond and more from other brands and companies, to cover the construction costs.
In another case against multiple defendants, including National Gypsum, the plaintiff was the widow of a pipefitter who died from mesothelioma. The suit claimed that he had been exposed to asbestos on the job through various products. The case is especially noteworthy, because it was an early asbestos case and it set a precedent. The court decided that the plaintiff remembering having seen a brand name, such as Gold Bond, on the job was enough to bring that company into the suit as a defendant.
Asbestos Trust Fund
Because of these and other lawsuits, National Gypsum filed for bankruptcy protection in 1990 and did not emerge until three years later. The company filed yet again in 2002, reorganizing in 2003 and it created an asbestos trust fund to compensate victims in 2003. The trust was founded with $347 million and is now a source of settlement money for those who were affected by Gold Bond and asbestos. The trust is called the National Gypsum Company Bodily Injury Trust.
Gold Bond products are still in use today, but since the 1970s they have not contained harmful asbestos. Those that did have asbestos in them have caused great harm to some of the people who worked with and around the materials. Thanks to a trust fund, those victims can now be justly compensated.
Page edited by Dave Foster
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