At one time, Turner & Newall was the largest asbestos company in the world and was the first to incorporate asbestos into textiles. Ultimately Turner & Newall was liable in thousands of cases of asbestos illness lawsuits. The company, then a subsidiary of Federal-Mogul, went into bankruptcy in 2001.
Turner & Newall History and Asbestos
The history of Turner & Newall dates back to 1871 when it was founded as a company called Turner Brothers in Rochdale in the United Kingdom. Founders Samuel, Robert, and John Turner were brothers, and they manufactured packaging made out of cotton cloth.
- The company was one of the earliest to start using asbestos in its manufacturing, adding the mineral to its cotton fabrics in 1879. At this time, the company name changed to Turner Brothers Asbestos Company, reflecting a time when asbestos was not yet known to cause harm.
- In the early 1900s, the company began making asbestos cement in a newly opened factory. At the time, the Trafford tile asbestos cement sheet was one of its biggest products.
- By the 1920s, the company began merging with other companies and acquiring even more. Merging with Newalls Insulation Company and Washington Chemical Company, it became Turner & Newall in 1920.
- Later the company would acquire more asbestos-related companies, including Bells’ United Asbestos Companies, which would provide Turner & Newall with its own asbestos mines.
- In 1934, Turner & Newall bought the American asbestos company Keasby and Mattison, which made construction materials.
- In 1949 Turner & Newall moved its headquarters to the large city of Manchester, and after World War II, it began making automotive parts, including gaskets made with asbestos. The company also began expanding worldwide with factories and distribution, as well as with asbestos mines in Africa and Canada.
- In 1955, a study connected asbestos in Rochdale to illnesses. Turner & Newall published its own study to discredit the claim that asbestos was harmful to human health.
- In 1959, Turner & Newall experienced its first asbestos-related catastrophe when it was forced to close a factory in Armley, near Leeds in the UK. About 1,000 homes in the area had become contaminated with asbestos dust, putting thousands of people at risk of getting sick. Experts blame a peak in cancer deaths in the area on Turner & Newall’s factory.
- Despite what it knew about the harms of asbestos, Turner & Newall continued using asbestos in its products through the 1970s.
- In 1998, Federal-Mogul, a large, Michigan-based company, bought Turner & Newall. Federal-Mogul took on liability for the decades of asbestos use that caused so many people to get sick. Overwhelmed by the cases and the costs, the company put Turner & Newall into bankruptcy.
Turner & Newall never recovered and is now defunct. It also established an asbestos trust providing compensation for victims.
How Did Turner & Newall Use Asbestos?
Turner & Newall used asbestos in nearly every type of product it manufactured. The companies it acquired over the years were similar and also used asbestos in their products.
Before anyone knew the risks to human health, Turner & Newall and other similar companies advertised using asbestos. This was because the mineral was widely known to have properties that made materials and products stronger, more durable, more flexible, more insulating, and more fireproof.
While Turner & Newall was just one of many companies to use asbestos in industrial manufacturing, it was one of the first and one of the largest. It made asbestos products on a scale that few other companies could match.
Turner & Newall Asbestos Products
The earliest products the company made with asbestos were textiles, but eventually, it used asbestos in a wide range of insulating materials and insulation products, cement and cement sheets and tiles, and magnesia.
One of the products the company made with asbestos, Limpet spray, was a spray-on insulation used for fireproofing structures, adding insulation to ceilings and walls, and equipment that generated a lot of heat. Spray-on asbestos insulation was particularly dangerous.
These are some of the many asbestos products Turner & Newall produced and sold:
- Atlas Turner Newalls 85% Magnesia
- Trafford Tile Asbestos Cement Sheets
- Aircell Pipe Covering
- Featherweight Pipe Covering
- K & M Pipe Covering
- K & M Hy-Temp Block Insulation
- K & M Rope Packing
- Sindanyo Asbestos Electric Arc
- Sindanyo Asbestos Heat Resisting Board
Who Was at Risk of Asbestos Exposure From Turner & Newall
Turner & Newall was responsible for asbestos exposure on a scale unmatched by most other companies. Asbestos exposure occurs when the tiny, crystalline fibers of the mineral break apart and become part of the dust in the air or on surfaces. Anyone in the area of this kind of contamination is likely to inhale the fibers unknowingly.
Tiny and sharp, asbestos fibers lodge in tissue where they cause damage that can lead to serious illnesses many years later: lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Turner & Newall put people around the world and in many industries at risk for these illnesses.
Turner & Newall Employees and Miners
People who worked in Turner & Newall’s manufacturing facilities had some of the most significant risks of exposure. Without appropriate safety gear, working with and handling asbestos almost always causes the small fibers to break apart, leading to inhalation.
Turner & Newall also operated mines in Canada and South Africa. Miners and other workers in those areas were at serious risk of asbestos exposure.
Construction Workers and Other Industries
Workers in other industries were also harmed by Turner & Newall products, particularly in construction:
- Drywall installers
- Insulation workers
- Boiler workers
- Demolition workers
- Maintenance and repair workers
Workers that used the Limpet spray were at particular risk. Spray-on asbestos insulation has since been found to be one of the most harmful forms of asbestos.
Workers in power plants, oil refineries, chemical plants, and other industrial settings may also have come into contact with Turner & Newall asbestos products.
Secondary and Residential Exposure
As the Armley factory incident showed, people who lived near one of these facilities were also at risk of asbestos exposure. Accidents could cause exposure, but regular activities in asbestos factories also often caused problems in the surrounding area.
This was not limited to factories in the U.S. and UK. Turner & Newall owned part of a factor in India that caused significant exposure in workers and residents.
Secondary exposure occurred when workers carried asbestos fibers from work into their homes. Turner & Newall factory workers and construction workers often did this unknowingly, putting family members at risk of later illness.
Asbestos Lawsuits Against Turner & Newall
The heavy and prolonged use of asbestos led to hundreds of thousands of mesothelioma and lung cancer lawsuits filed against Turner & Newall and the parent company that bought it in 1998, Federal-Mogul.
Turner & Newall faced one of the earliest cases of legal action due to asbestos illness. Nellie Kershaw worked at the company’s Rochdale, UK, factory and died from asbestosis in 1924. Her family sought compensation from Turner & Newall, which denied any liability or damages.
A more recent case involved John T. Lydon, a pipefitter who died from mesothelioma. He worked with Turner & Newall’s Limpet spray insulation in the 1960s. His widow, Katherine Lydon, sued the company for damages in 2014. The jury awarded her $9.3 million.
Bankruptcy and Asbestos Trust
Federal-Mogul created an asbestos trust as part of its bankruptcy and reorganization. It was created in 2007 and was funded with $635 million.
It was just one of several sub-funds created by Federal-Mogul, a huge conglomerate with multiple subsidiaries, many of which were answering for asbestos liability by the 1980s.
The current payment percentage for the Federal Mogul Asbestos Personal Injury Trust Turner & Newall Subfund is 5.9%.
Although Turner & Newall was a British company, the purchase by Federal-Mogul brought many of the cases to the U.S. When Federal-Mogul filed for bankruptcy in 2001, it put victims in a difficult position, and many of those who suffered from mesothelioma illnesses were unable to get compensation.
One of these victims was a man named Derek Philips, who lived for nearly twenty years near the company’s Rochdale factory. He died of mesothelioma yet never received any compensation.
Turner & Newall’s Cover-up of Asbestos Dangers
Many people were victims of Turner & Newall’s unethical and possibly illegal actions regarding asbestos use. It was common for asbestos companies to claim they had no knowledge of the dangers of asbestos, but in many cases, this wasn’t true.
Recent documents have shown that the company spied on and actively tried to discredit reporters and activists in the 1980s and 1990s who were trying to gain attention for the dangers of asbestos. The company even accused many of the of being communists.
Additional investigations found that Rochdale’s Member of Parliament Cyril Smith was involved in these activities. Turner & Newall wrote a speech for Smith in which he addressed Parliament about the safety of asbestos.
Turner & Newall Sites Still Causing Harm Today
Turner & Newall’s dangerous reach continues today, particularly in the factories it left behind. In 2013, a fire at the Rochdale factory put firefighters and nearby residents at risk of exposure to lingering asbestos.
The former Rochdale factory continues to be an issue and requires cleanup and redevelopment. ESG Trading bought the site after the Rochdale Council failed to follow through on a plan to create 600 homes there.
ESG is still in the process of creating a plan for the site. Residents in the area have been pushing for a nature reserve over residential development. In the meantime, Rochdale residents still face asbestos exposure risks.
What to Do if You Were Exposed to Turner & Newall Asbestos
Today Turner & Newall is no longer a real company manufacturing products, but Federal-Mogul survived bankruptcy and still operates. It is also settling claims through its asbestos trusts, which can be accessed by victims of Turner & Newall asbestos exposure.
If you believe you have such a claim, let a mesothelioma lawyer help you take the next step. They can review your work history and find all the companies responsible for your exposure. You might be eligible for other asbestos trusts or to file a lawsuit.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.