The Synkoloid Company was a maker of paints, coatings, asphalt, and other related construction products. It lasted as an independent company from its founding in the 1890s through its takeover by Artra Group in the 1970s. Since then it has only been a subsidiary of other companies. For a few decades Synkoloid used asbestos as an ingredient in many of its products and this led to thousands of lawsuits.
The workers that got sick after working with Synkoloid products began filing lawsuits against the company in the 1960s and later against the parent company. These led to two parent companies filing for bankruptcy and jointly creating a trust to compensate victims who developed lung cancer mesothelioma, or asbestosis from working with or living with Synkoloid asbestos products.
The Synkoloid Company was founded on Staten Island in New York City in 1894 as a manufacturer of a variety of construction related products. Although the company was small to begin with it introduced Spackle in 1928 to great acclaim. A well-known household product now, in the 1920s it was a revolutionary product that no other company could offer. The original spackle arrived as a powder, to which liquids were added to make a paste.
As the company grew it continued to innovate and offer new products for construction industries. These include waterproof paints, interior and exterior paints, and latex emulsions, all introduced in the 1950s. Between 1949 and 1976 many of the Synkoloid products were made with asbestos and this would cause the company and its later parent companies a lot of problems in the coming decades.
Artra Group acquired Synkoloid in 1975, at which time the problems with having used asbestos were already known. Lawsuits over asbestos exposure had begun to be filed against Synkoloid as early as 1962. Artra Group agreed to take on responsibility for ongoing asbestos litigation over Synkoloid products and as the millennium ended it was battling nearly 50,000 cases.
In 1981 the Synkoloid division and brand was bought by Muralo Company, Inc., although in the deal it was not required to take on the asbestos liability. That remained with Artra Group. Artra was eventually forced to file for bankruptcy because of the costs of lawsuits by 2002. Because of the bankruptcy, liability passed to Muralo, which then also had to file for bankruptcy. Both companies emerged and were reorganized by 2007 with a joint asbestos trust used to compensate future victims coming forward with claims.
For more than two decades Synkoloid used asbestos in many of its construction related products. Asbestos was long valued as a material for a range of industrial applications, including construction materials because of its properties. These include an ability to insulate efficiently, to resist electricity, to fireproof, to add strength and durability, and to be molded into a variety of useful shapes.
A lot of industries used asbestos during its heyday, but the construction industry used it especially heavily. Nearly every property of asbestos made it a desirable ingredient in roofing, walls, flooring, and other elements of homes and buildings. Synkoloid made a lot of products with asbestos. Some of these were Plastibond, Snohide, Triple Duty joint compound, Tex-Wall, EKE-Tex, Flexi patch, Tex-Add, Kool-Kap, and Synko-Topping. These products included things like joint compound, surface conditioners, roof paints, cements, stucco, and others used regularly in construction.
Many people were affected by the use of asbestos by Synkoloid, but few more so than those in the construction industry. All types of construction workers, but especially painters, roofers, drywall installers, carpenters, and those specializing in renovating homes, were put at risk of asbestos exposure if Synkoloid products were being used. Asbestos is harmful when it is damaged, disturbed, exposed, or left to decay with age. When this happens, small fibers come loose and workers can inhale them. Construction workers handling these products were likely to have sanded, drilled, cut, and broken materials that contained asbestos, leading to exposure risks.
When those small fibers of asbestos are exposed and enter the air, workers inhale them simply by breathing. Once in the lungs, the fibers stick in tissues like little needles and cause damage and potentially scarring. Only some people exposed will get sick because of this damage, but those who do often get sick many years later with diseases like cancer, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, or asbestosis. In addition to the many construction workers who handled or worked around Synkoloid asbestos products, those who worked for the company and manufactured the products were also put at risk of exposure.
Lawsuits and Bankruptcy
Because so many people got sick over asbestos used in Synkoloid, the company and its parent companies faced lawsuits over liability for failing to warn workers or the risks of asbestos. These lawsuits piled up and eventually numbered in the thousands, costing the companies a lot of money. As one example, a former contractor who was self-employed successfully sued the company for $2 million. John Henry Pace worked with Synkoloid’s joint compound for decades and ultimately developed asbestosis. In spite of warnings about the dangers of asbestos in the joint compound that the company received in 1969, it continued to make it without any warnings to consumers or workers, until 1976.
Synkoloid, Artra Group, and Muralo all faced lawsuits like these and even legal action against their insurance companies. This all led to bankruptcy filings by both Artra and Muralo, both of whom reorganized and emerged again, reorganized, in 2007. They also established a joint asbestos trust to help compensate victims going forward. The trust is called the ARTRA Asbestos Trust. Even with the trust, legal action did not stop. In 2011 the trust sued an insurance company for failing to provide adequate compensation for the fund.
Synkoloid products were used by many companies and many people and still may be in some homes and other buildings. People who were exposed to asbestos through these products are seeking justice when they end up getting sick with cancer or asbestosis. The ARTRA trust is now the main avenue for getting compensation as a victim, so if you believe Synkoloid plaid a role in your asbestos illness, contact a mesothelioma lawyer to help you make a claim.
Page edited by Dave Foster
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