Lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma have all been linked to prolonged exposure to asbestos and asbestos containing products. During the 1950’s to the 1980’s many companies used asbestos and products that contained asbestos, even while knowing about the dangers of exposure. Many employees were not informed of this danger, and as a result are now suffering from the effects. There are a number of past employees who after twenty or thirty years are just now developing mesothelioma from their exposure to asbestos decades ago. If you, or a loved one, have suffered one of these diseases while working with or around asbestos, contact a lawyer from the Arentz Law Group immediately; you may be entitled to compensation. Simply fill out the contact form on this page, or call 1-800-305-6000 to schedule your free initial consultation.
Alcoa (which derives its name from Aluminum Company of America) is one of the largest producers of aluminum in the world. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, this company has been around for over 125 years. While they do a great job at producing aluminum, there was a period when they subjected their employees to dangerous working conditions.
Asbestos was seen as a miracle product due to its incredible resilience to fire. Because it kept the flames at bay, this product was used in metal smelting machinery, protective clothing, insulation, and many other products. The result was that those who worked in the smelting plant were constantly exposed to these products.
Although the dangers of working with and around asbestos were known as early as the 1930’s (and prior), Alcoa as a company did not warn their workers that they may be at risk. Furthermore, they did not warn that the employees may be putting their family at risk due to secondhand exposure to asbestos fibers.
Take for instance Amanda Satterfield. Born in the late 1970’s, Amanda was born prematurely and had to spend several months in the hospital in Tennessee. Amanda’s father worked in an Alcoa aluminum plant and after working would visit his daughter in the hospital. These visits resulted in minor transferences of asbestos particles from the father’s clothing, into Amanda’s under-developed lungs. In 2005, when Amanda was just 25 years old, she passed away after battling mesothelioma. Her parents continued the pursuit of justice against Alcoa after their daughter passed seeking $10 million in compensatory damages, and another $10 million in punitive damages.
Founded in the 1920’s, Allied Chemical Company has been providing needed chemicals to America for decades. They went through several name changes and mergers, including purchasing the aerospace equipment manufacturer Bendix, merging with Signal Companies, and purchasing the company Honeywell that manufactures thermostats. During their journey they continued to process chemicals.
Part of the chemical processing procedure includes incredibly high heat. One of the unique properties of asbestos is that it is an incredible insulator. Able to withstand immense heat and not combust, this mineral was once seen as a dream product. To make the product even more appealing, it is relatively inert; many chemicals have no reaction with asbestos. However, despite being seen as a dream product, the glory of asbestos quickly faded when the mineral was found to cause cancer. However, even though asbestos use was known to be harmful, many companies, such as Allied Chemical, continued its use.
One of the major problems with asbestos is that it does not maintain its original form. There are products, such as asbestos transite, that when produced dry hard. As long as they are hardened, they are relatively inert. However, as they age the compound begins to break down. The powdery dust that comes off can be inhaled. Inhalation of friable asbestos can lead to major lung problems.
Working in a brewery, the employees must keep the beer at a constant temperature or they will risk having the batch spoil. To do so, the piping has to be insulated. Asbestos was seen as a cheap way to insulate those pipes. However, as the plant is used, the pipes become dirty and they need to be cleaned. The workers who were in charge of scrubbing them not only were put at risk of inhaling airborne asbestos, everyone working in the vicinity was at risk as well. When employees would go home for the evening, they would transfer those asbestos particles on their clothing back to their residences, potentially putting their families at risk for asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
Pete Seper was one of those workers who was at risk. Pete worked as a brewer for Anheuser Busch from 1948 to 1982. During his tenure, he was routinely exposed to asbestos, and decades after he retired, Pete developed lung cancer. Pete passed away in 2011 from this disease, and his wife filed a claim against the company for negligence due to exposing Pete to a known hazardous product. Pete’s story is just one of hundreds that are similar.
ARCO operated a number of refineries in the western half of the country through much of the twentieth century. Despite being a known major polluter from their plants, this company also heavily relied on asbestos materials to help provide heat and flame resistant construction to their plants. When the plants were constructed, the dangers of asbestos were not fully realized. However, after the mineral was labeled a human carcinogen, and its use during construction was banned, many of the plants failed to update their facilities. As a result, the workers were regularly subjected to asbestos exposure.
Asbestos was heavily used in form called asbestos transite. The transite is similar to cement, and can be shaped, molded, and sprayed into place. When it dries it forms a solid fire-proof surface. Since it is so easy to work with, many companies would spray their ductwork and piping with the transite as an easy form of insulation. However, like all aspects of a factory, these areas would need cleaning. As the asbestos transite aged, it would begin to break down and crumble. When touched, and cleaned, the particles of the asbestos would become airborne and the workers would inhale those particles. It would not be for several decades before the symptoms would show up.
Founded in Ohio in 1899, Armco is one of the largest steel producers in the country. They started as a small company under the name Middleton Works. Over the years the company expanded and bought new mills. In the late 1940’s the company adopted the name Armco Steel. As they continued to merge and expand, the company combined their forces with Kawasaki Steel Corporation in 1989. 1993 saw them move their headquarters to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and rebranded themselves as AK Steel.
During their growth, Armco sought to maximize their profits. One way they did so was to ensure that heat was not lost. In the metalwork industries, temperatures as high as 3,000 degrees are often reached. To ensure that the workers are able to bear these temperatures, and to minimize heat loss (which would require furnaces to work harder); a good insulation material must be used. During the middle part of the 20th century, the material used was asbestos.
Asbestos was used in a multitude of ways in steel mills. It was used to wrap pipes, it was incorporated into protective clothing and gear, it was crafted into flooring, wall coverings, and siding. The mineral could be used in so many versatile ways, it was considered by many to be a miracle product. However, this mineral is actually very dangerous to those working around it.
As the products made with asbestos age, they start to break down. At this point they will need replaced. However, the asbestos fibers become friable, meaning they easily crumble and become airborne. These friable asbestos fibers were inhaled by countless workers. As the fibers entered the lungs, they become lodged in the pleura, the protective lining of the lungs and many other organs in the chest cavity. Here they begin to do damage that later manifests itself as mesothelioma. By the time a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, they often do not have much longer than one year to live.
During the first and second World Wars Bethlehem Steel saw a lot of activity. As one of the biggest steel producers in the United States they were in charge of helping to build the giant warships that became popular during those times. Countless ships were constructed with the help of Bethlehem Steel.
After the wars ended they turned their attention to the civilian market. Providing steel for the construction of skyscrapers they literally helped to shape America. However, they started their decline in the 1960’s when they lost the bid to provide the steel for the construction of the World Trade Centers. Finally in 2003 Bethlehem Steel went under for good with construction crews opting for cheaper goods from overseas.
During their shipbuilding productions, and on into their skyscraper days, the company operated a number of blast furnaces. Asbestos was able to provide the insulation properties needed. It could be used in the construction, as well as incorporated into the protective clothing that would be worn by the workers.
However, despite the fantastic insulation properties of the asbestos, it was deadly to those working around it. As the fibers were disturbed and the workers inhaled them, they were subjecting themselves to serious medical conditions down the road. Now many of those workers are experiencing shortness of breath, coughing, and overall breathing problems. They have the initial stages of asbestosis. As the lung tissue scars over breathing will become more and more difficult, and eventually oxygen will be needed. Most sufferers succumb to respiratory failure.
BF Goodrich is most popular for their tires. Today, they are one of the most popular brands of tires on the market. However, tires are not their only venture. This corporation has spread far and wide, focusing a majority of their efforts now on aerospace.
Goodrich Corporation started out as the BF Goodrich Company in Akron, OH back in 1870. They initially focused on tire manufacture, but quickly branched into other ventures. One of those ventures was the chemical manufacturing industry.
BF Goodrich Chemical Company had several plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. For a number of years they manufactured products such as Geon vinyl and resilient floor tiles. For several decades in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s the workers at these plants were regularly exposed to asbestos, yet they were not warned of the dangers of working with this product.
Chemical companies have a responsibility to protect their employees from the dangers of the chemicals. Asbestos was seen as a great product to help protect from fire and chemical burns. Its unique properties make it resistant to flame and chemicals. However, the product is inherently dangerous as the asbestos fibers can be inhaled. These friable asbestos fibers will become trapped in the lung’s pleura causing irreparable damage. This damage starts to spread, eventually leading to full blown mesothelioma; a rare, yet fatal, form of cancer.
Caterpillar has long been a leading manufacturer of heavy equipment in the US. Tracing its roots back to Peoria, IL, the company started out as a merger between two a manufacturing company and a tractor company in 1925. For the next several decades this company built top of the line equipment to be used for construction purposes. During this time, they were also incorporating asbestos into some of the parts that went into their machinery.
As these machines were produced, employees were subjected to asbestos exposure. The parts had to be manufactured, and the machines had to be maintained. There are several times that employees may have been exposed to this dangerous mineral. Any building that dealt with high temperatures, such as metal forging, chemical production, or metal smelting would incorporate asbestos as a means of keeping the workers safe from burns. Unfortunately, workers in those buildings often suffered from something much worse than burns.
The machines produced by Caterpillar would use a lot of asbestos in the areas that heated up. For instance, brake pads would not function well if they were destroyed by the high heats produced by friction. To combat this, Caterpillar would use asbestos laden brake pads in their equipment. Those who worked on this area of the machine would be exposed to asbestos every day.
There have already been a number of lawsuits filed against Caterpillar claiming that they knew and understood the dangers of exposure to asbestos. The claims allege that protective measures were not taken, and the employees are not suffering the consequences.
Based in The Woodlands, TX (a suburb of Houston), Chevron Phillips Chemical Company as it is now known was founded in the year 2000 when Chevron Corporation and Phillips 66 merged. Before the merger, however, Chevron was producing chemicals and products for many years. During those years, they incorporated asbestos products into much of their work.
Asbestos transite was used in the plants owned and operated by Chevron to coat pipes, form siding, and used as an otherwise fireproof hardened liner. While the transite is in solid form, or encapsulated in paint or another medium, it is relatively inert. In fact, many homes today still have asbestos siding. But in 1989 at the Chevron plant in Pasadena, TX there was an explosion. This explosion decimated the asbestos transite, causing a wide area to be covered in asbestos dust. Anyone in the area was exposed to these cancer causing particles, especially those who were working at the plant. The results, showing up 25 years later, are that many employees who worked for Chevron at the time are being diagnosed with lung cancer, asbestosis, or mesothelioma.
Chevron Phillips Chemical has been involved in a number of lawsuits recently. One of the largest was the case of Thomas Brown. Thomas worked mixing asbestos containing drilling mud in a Texas oilfield for nearly a decade. He was never informed of the hazards of inhaling the dust, and now he requires oxygen 24 hours per day. The 2011 case had an outcome finding in favor of Mr. Brown and Chevron was required to pay $322 million, but the verdict was thrown out in 2012.
The Continental Oil and Transportation Company, known now as Conoco, started out in 1875 in Ogden, Utah. This company near Salt Lake City quickly became a major distributor of oil and other gas-like products to the western half of the United States. Through a series of mergers, near failures, and discoveries Continental Oil and Transportation comes out on top after a merger with Marland Oil in 1929, the name is changed to Continental Oil Company, shortened to Conoco.
As one of the first companies to refine oil into gasoline, Conoco was at the forefront of the developing technology. What this also meant was widely incorporating the use of asbestos into the building materials. The mineral, known for its amazing heat and fire resistant properties, was used heavily during the middle part of the twentieth century. In factories, such as an oil refinery, a material was needed that was not only flame resistant, but also chemical resistant; asbestos lived up to this job.
Asbestos amosite was often mixed with the chemical chrysotile to form this chemical resistant construction material. Formally outlawed in construction use in 1970, any buildings and structures being built now do not even think of incorporating it. However, even though the substance was known to be carcinogenic to humans, companies such as Conoco kept it in place in some of their older buildings.
As the asbestos aged it would begin to crumble and breakdown. The particles could easily become airborne with even the slightest touch, and those working around them were subjected to inhaling asbestos particles on a daily basis. This took a toll on their lungs as the tiny pieces would become lodged in the lining. Unable to expel the particles, the body’s reaction to become inflamed and irritated led to lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis. Many of those who were exposed 4 decades ago are just now showing the outward symptoms of their exposure.
In 1910 the Diamond Alkali Company was born. This chemical company based in West Virginia took the area by storm rapidly growing and expanding. In 1967 they merged with Shamrock Oil to form the Diamond Shamrock Company.
The company has a history of cutting corners. In fact, one of their plants in New Jersey developed the now banned herbicide Agent Orange. Known to be a low quality version of the chemical, the plant routinely would dump “bad” batches into the river. In 1984 the Passaic River was declared an EPA superfund site, and the company was in a lot of hot water to help with the cleanup.
Throughout this entire ordeal, the company also subjected many of their employees to asbestos exposure. As a chemical company they needed a product that would hold up to all of the elements that they threw at it. Since most products are destroyed when hit with chemicals, this company needed something strong. Asbestos was their answer. Asbestos comes in many different varieties, each one better suited to a different task.
Asbestos chrysotile, the most commonly used form of asbestos, is highly resistant to chemicals. This meant that when incorporated into flooring, countertops, and even protective gear, the product would be able to have a number of different chemicals spilled onto it without damaging it and requiring replacement. This form of asbestos can also withstand incredibly high heats, even up to 500 degrees Celsius (932 Fahrenheit) without being damaged. These properties made it widely used in chemical plants around the middle of the 20th century.
However, as the products were used particles of asbestos would become airborne. Employees of these factories would constantly be exposed to the particles, and they would inhale them every day. Over time these particles would become lodged in their lungs and years later (often 30 or more years) the problems would manifest themselves as mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis. As these conditions progress the former Diamond Shamrock or Diamond Alkali employee would become dependent on oxygen and eventually succumb to respiratory failure.
In the early 1900’s Dr. Walker Gill Wylie and his brother started a power company. Their goal was to provide energy to residents of North and South Carolina. As the company grew and expanded, they took on the name Duke Power Company. In the late 1990’s, the company merged with PanEnergy to form Duke Energy Company. Today they are one of the largest providers of energy for the area. But that has come at a cost.
Through the middle of the century, Duke Power was expanding. During construction of their new plants, they relied heavily on asbestos as an insulator due to its fire and heat resistant properties. As time progressed it became known that asbestos was dangerous, and it could lead to lung cancer or mesothelioma in those who are exposed. However, Duke did not take proper action to clean up their buildings. Instead, the asbestos was becoming old, and often friable asbestos particles would become airborne. Anyone working in the plant could inhale them, and as the particles become lodged in the lungs, they do irreparable damage.
Duke Energy Company has faced a number of lawsuits regarding issues with asbestos. It acknowledges that asbestos was used in construction and maintenance in the 1960’s and 1970’s. And the number of personal injury claims has risen so high that the company has over $1.5 billion in insurance to protect themselves against claims.
Exxon Mobil started its journey in 1899 as a split from the Standard Oil Company. The two companies, Exxon and Mobil, were one of many of the splits from this oil giant that was under public pressure to dissolve due to corruption. As the 1900’s rolled around, the companies went under many mergers, splits, and added a number of different departments, one of which was the Mobil Chemical Company that was started in 1950. The two companies finally joined up as one, the now internationally known Exxon Mobil Corporation, in 1999 creating the world’s largest oil and gas company and one of the biggest companies of all time.
But that tremendous growth came at a great cost. Many of the company’s plants are located in Texas, including Baytown, Beaumont, Chaison, and Houston. These plants were constructed under guidelines that are now seen as unfit for human work conditions, namely due to their extensive use of the mineral asbestos. Exxon is already the defendant in many asbestos related cases.
Due to the physical structure of the asbestos particles, they easily become lodged in the lungs upon entrance. Because the body has no way of evacuating these particles, they become inflamed and irritated, creating an environment that is prime for the growth and spread of cancer. This cancer can manifest itself as lung cancer, or as mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer that affects the linings of the organs in the chest cavity. Nearly all cases of mesothelioma prove to be fatal.
Ford Motor Company is perhaps the most well known car manufacturer around. Starting its journey in Dearborn, Michigan (just outside of Detroit) the company saw a need for a transportation improvement and exploited that niche. The company shot to success in its first few years, and soon developed the Model T, a car that revolutionized America. At the same time the company invented the assembly line, a process that sped up the manufacture of automobiles. It was throughout the early and middle parts of the twentieth century that this company also started using asbestos in the manufacture of automobiles.
Asbestos has a unique property in that it does not deteriorate when exposed to extreme heat. Vehicles need heat resistance primarily in their brake pads, where the friction can cause metal to literally become red hot, and in some cases melt. By using 40-60% chrysotile asbestos in the brake pads, Ford was able to make a pad that would last longer, and be more durable and reliable for the consumer.
Unfortunately, the side effect of making a better product for the consumer was causing irreversible damage to the lungs of those working in the brake pad plant. As the pads were cut, ground, shaped, and manufactured, some of the asbestos would become released into the air. The airborne asbestos would be subsequently inhaled and lodged in the lungs of the workers. These workers would experience decay in their lung tissue that would not manifest itself for 20 or 30 years. By the time the patient discovers that they have been injured, their cancer or disease is well advanced, and the best they can usually hope for is to slow its progression.
General Electric started in the late 1800’s with the guidance of Thomas Edison. This inventor and experimenter guided the company’s roots, and helped to boost the electric industry that we know today. In 1892, after a merger of the Edison General Electric Company and Thomas-Houston Electric Company, GE was formed. Since its founding, GE has branched off from just lamps and electricity, to incorporate a whole host of endeavors including appliances, digital cameras, financing, insurance, aerospace, and many more. During the course of its expansion and growth, General Electric also relied on asbestos as a means of insulation and heat resistance.
General Electric has faced more than 400,000 lawsuits regarding exposure to asbestos. As a major manufacturer for goods of all types, General Electric relied heavily on asbestos to make up some of the main components of that equipment. For most of the 20th century this giant corporation used the dangerous mineral, yet they failed to warn both their employees and their consumers of the risks. The result of the failure to warn is that the conglomerate corporation is facing a number of lawsuits. The workers who manufactured the products are realizing the diseases and conditions they are developing are a result of their asbestos exposure. And many government workers, especially naval employees, steel workers, and the like, are finding they too are developing illnesses due to the exposure brought on by using parts manufactured by GE.
General Motors, often known as just GM, got its start in the early 1900’s as the General Motors Corporation. Headquartered in Flint, Michigan (near Detroit), the company was pivotal in building up the area as the auto capital of the US. The company was the leader in global vehicle sales from 1931 until 2007. When the great recession hit, the company was forced into a government backed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and reorganized into the General Motors Company as it is known today.
When the company first started there were very few cars on the roads in America. However, that quickly changed as new technologies and methods were developed. GM began building factories, and assembly lines. Some of the technology used was to incorporate asbestos into brake linings and clutches.
Brake pads must be individually ground to the right specifications. Since they require individual care, it means workers were standing over the product grinding away at the asbestos laden material and creating dust. This dust was inevitably inhaled, and the asbestos particles would become lodged in the lungs.
When asbestos particles enter the lungs they cause many problems. Initially the individual will not notice any negative effects. However, over time the particles irritate and inflame the area. If the lungs counteract this by scarring over, the individual may end up with asbestosis. If the inflammation and irritation spreads it can lead to mesothelioma or lung cancer. Those who contract any of these diseases will need medical treatment and most likely end up on oxygen for the final years of their life.
Goodyear is based in Akron, Ohio. Since just before the year 1900, this company has been manufacturing tires, and it is currently one of the largest manufacturers in the world. However, during the time when asbestos was being used, Goodyear used this product quite often.
Former employees at the Goodyear plant have described the working conditions they were subjected to. While these conditions were not terrible, they did involve the continued use of asbestos. For instance, one tire plant employee described that not only were the pipes wrapped in asbestos insulation, they also used an asbestos powder that would keep the rubber from sticking. This powder was constantly in the air during the day, and there was no way to avoid inhalation. The company did not warn the employees of the dangers, nor did they provide protective equipment to protect the employees from inhaling the dust.
The results of this continued exposure is that many employees have contracted mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that affects the linings of the internal organs. The cancer is fatal; there is no cure. A result of Goodyear’s failure to warn and protect their employees is that there are thousands of lawsuits being brought against the company; many of them result in compensation for the employee or the employee’s family.
International Paper Company started out with the merger of 18 separate pulp and paper mills in 1898. This conglomeration of companies meant nearly instant success. In fact, by the turn of the century, this company had 60% of the market share for newsprint across the United States. Their success has continued with new developments, spreads, and mergers during the past century, and they currently employ over 50,000 people. Despite their success, there were some years where the company did not take care of their employees by providing adequate warning and safety measures against asbestos exposure.
A paper mill, by nature, is highly susceptible to fire and explosion. The milling process involves a lot of heat, and the finished product is highly flammable. During the middle of the 20th century, companies were using asbestos as a way of preventing fires before they would spread too far. Asbestos could be incorporated into insulation and not only help to keep the facility at an efficient temperature, but also contain any fires that were trying to spread. Asbestos siding helped to perform a similar function. This natural mineral was used extensively, yet as the years went by, it had to be replaced. When the old asbestos was removed, it created dust. This dust proves to be deadly.
Oil refineries, such as the Marathon Oil refinery found in Robinson, IL, use dangerous chemicals and extreme heat. In order to combat this, and make sure there are no fires and chemical spills are contained, a product that was highly heat resistant and chemical resistant needed to be used. The form of asbestos called amosite, fashioned into asbestos transite, was used because it met both of these components.
Asbestos transite is a highly versatile product. It can be shaped and molded, as well as sprayed around pipes and other fixtures. It provides insulation, protection from corrosion, and helps stop the spread of fires should they occur. Asbestos transite also breaks down over time, and the particulate become friable. Friable asbestos easily becomes airborne and can be inhaled by anyone that is working in close proximity to it.
When a person inhales asbestos dust the particules can become lodged in the lining of their lungs. Once there, they cannot be removed. Over time the area becomes irritated and inflamed. The damage can lead to asbestosis (scarring of the lung tissue), lung cancer, or mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer that affects the linings of the organs in the chest cavity).
To get to where they are today, Mobil Oil had to expand rapidly in the middle part of the twentieth century. This mean building factories and refineries that used a lot of heavy equipment. Much of this equipment, and many of the factories, incorporated asbestos into their use as a heat and fire resistant material.
Asbestos was widely used in order to combat the negative effects of the oil refining process. By using asbestos transite, the factory had floors, walls, countertops, and pipes insulation that were highly resistant to chemical spills. Other forms of asbestos could be used to help protect against fires from spreading, and to keep the heat contained inside the equipment where it would do the most good.
Currently there are thousands of lawsuits against Mobil Oil for subjecting their workers to unsafe environments over the years. Some of the higher profile cases involve ship repairman Bert Minton who suffers from mesothelioma. He was awarded $25 million in 2011. The estate of James Bailey was awarded $850,000 in 2005. James contracted lung cancer due to asbestos exposure at a Texas factory and died from complications.
Founded in 1901, Monsanto has been a leading supplier of chemicals for decades. Their headquarters is in St. Louis, MO but they have other plants around the country, with several of them in Texas. Despite having the appearance of being a friendly company (they are recognized by the Wildlife Habitat Council as having a friendly landscape), they did try to cut some corners several decades ago. Their former employees are now paying the price.
Asbestos was primarily used as an insulator. Companies would wrap their pipes with it to prevent heat loss during transfer, walls would be covered with it, and even protective clothing could be made with asbestos fibers woven into it. Although asbestos does make a great insulator, it is also known to be unaffected by reactive chemicals. A chemical plant would find both of these properties highly desirable.
Because it met their needs, Monsanto used asbestos in many components of their plants. Asbestos amosite was used extensively because of its resistance to corrosion. Asbestos transite, sometimes called asbestos cement, is able to be shaped as needed. It has been used to cover the sides of buildings, build countertops, and sprayed onto walls and pipes, and once hardened it would stay right in place. But as time took its toll on the transite, it would begin to break down. The powdery friable asbestos fibers would be cast into the air and inhaled by employees. These fibers get lodged in the pleura of the lungs causing damage. That damage manifests itself decades later as mesothelioma.
Monsanto has already been the defendant in a number of asbestos related lawsuits. There are many people who have worked for them, and they have been exposed to dangerous asbestos without being warned of the dangers. Just like any injury that occurs on the workplace, the employer is liable, even if the effects of that injury have taken 20 or 30 years to show up.
In the late 1800’s Franklin Olin had a dream. He saw a huge need for explosives to be used in the nearby quarries, so he founded a company to produce powder and explosives. That company quickly expanded to making cartridges and ammunition for rifles. Through a series of competitive events, Olin expanded and diversified in order to stay in business, and by 1944 Olin Industries was well underway.
Asbestos was highly used in the 1960’s as an insulator. When working in a chemical plant, a facility that is subject to fire and high heat, a good insulator is needed. Asbestos seemed like it was a miracle product, used to insulate and protect against chemical spills. This mineral was incorporated into countertops, wall coverings, floorings, protective clothing, and many more areas of everyday use in these chemical plants.
Like all products, asbestos will break down over time. This deterioration means the particles become friable, or easily crumbled. Any disturbance allows them to become airborne, and a nearby factory worker could easily inhale the friable asbestos particles. Those who worked for Olin Mathieson in the middle to late part of the 20th century were regularly exposed to friable asbestos. The result is that they are now experiencing the severe medical conditions that go along with that exposure.
When the asbestos enters into the lungs, it becomes lodged in the pleura, or the lining, of the lungs. Here it irritates and inflames causing one of two results. Either the body scars over the area, damaging the lungs beyond repair; or it causes cancer to form and spread around the area. Both situations will ultimately require medical treatment and the use of oxygen later in life.
The Pennsylvania Electric Company, referred to as Penelec, has long been a staple in Erie, Pennsylvania. It has provided power to the area for many years, and only in the last two decades has it undergone some mergers and changes. Now a part of First Energy Corporation, Penelec still provides an important service to its customers. However, during the middle part of the 20th century, the company incorporated some business practices that were not in the best interest of their employees. Namely, they used asbestos in their plants.
As a power company, Pennsylvania Electric relied heavily on steam to help turn power turbines. In order to transport this steam efficiently, the pipes were wrapped in asbestos. Asbestos was highly prized for its insulation and heat resistant qualities, and thus its use was quite common. Unfortunately the asbestos would break down over time, and it would need replaced. When it breaks down, the mineral becomes friable, meaning it crumbles easily. This crumbly asbestos ends up airborne, and the workers who are working in or near the area inhale the particulates. Over the next several decades, these particulates do damage to the person’s lungs; that damage manifests as mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer.
Procter & Gamble started out as the brainchild of William Procter and James Gamble nearly 200 years ago in 1837. The two saw booming success in the home goods market and by 1858 they had over $1 million in sales. Throughout the next 150 years the company grew and expanded. They branched off into different countries, and added many different products from soaps, to toothpastes, to foods, to deodorants. Today they are a multi-billion dollar company that saw nearly $84 Billion in sales in 2012 alone. But that huge growth came at a high price to the employees.
Asbestos was used extensively in the middle part of the 20th century. Although the dangers of the mineral have been known for centuries, companies still used it because it was incredible at insulating and providing flame resistance. For a company that manufactures different products, these qualities are essential. Unfortunately, asbestos also is highly carcinogenic.
Much of the asbestos use was sprayed or molded around pipes in order to provide a protective and insulating barrier. But as the pipes became dirty, they would need scrubbed clean. Doing so would cause the asbestos to break apart and become friable (in other words, easily crumbled or turned to dust). Anyone in the vicinity would then be subject to inhaling this asbestos dust. Once inhaled, it is highly likely that the employee would suffer from lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis later in life.
One such instance where P&G was operating a plant that used asbestos was in Jackson, Tennessee. This plant was used to make Pringles potato chips (a branch of the corporation that was sold off in 2012). Underneath the potato fryer the crew responsible for the removal found asbestos insulation.
Many other plants operated by P&G around the country, including those in Kansas City, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Chicago, also relied heavily on asbestos to provide the insulation for their machines. Many employees that used to work at those plants 20 or 30 years ago are now suffering the fatal effects of inhaling asbestos dust.
In 1907 Otto Rohm and Otto Haas founded the company in Germany. By 1909 they had moved their operation to Philadelphia. They shot to success for their innovations surrounding products needed for World War I, and continued that success with the manufacture of Plexiglas for aircrafts during World War II.
During their years of production Rohm and Haas was like many other chemical companies. They had factories across the country that dealt with potentially hazardous chemicals, as well as furnaces that produced immense amounts of heat. To combat this, they incorporated asbestos into the construction of those plants.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is found throughout the world. It comes in many different varieties, and each has unique properties allowing it to be incredibly heat and flame resistant. Exploiting these properties mean incorporating the asbestos into transite that was molded around pipes and into walls in order to contain heat. Using asbestos in flooring and for building countertops the company was able to produce a surface that was resistant to chemical spills, something that would inevitably occur in a chemical factory.
The main problem occurred when those working in close proximity to the asbestos inhaled the particles. As the materials wore down, they would crumble. Any slight disturbance would cause the asbestos fibers to become airborne, and workers would inhale them. After becoming lodged in the lungs, these fibers would irritate and inflame the area leading to mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis.
In 1879, in a little town outside of Philadelphia, the Scott brothers started their company that creates paper based goods. The Scott Paper Company, which has seen many ups and downs over the past 100+ years, is often credited as being the first to produce toilet paper that is on a roll. They have expanded and added many new products since then, including plates, napkins, paper towels, and many many more. This brand is found in most households across the country.
There were several ways that asbestos was used in the paper manufacturing process. The primary way, which is similar to many other factory settings, was to use it as insulation and protection against fire and chemical spills. The asbestos mineral is naturally resistant to flames and chemicals. By incorporating it into asbestos transite the workers were protected against these two dangers.
Paper manufacturers would also use asbestos in their machinery. For instance, some of the machines use dryer felts; these felts are used to remove water from the paper pulp helping to speed up the curing process. The felts were at one point laden with asbestos, and the workers who used them were constantly exposed to the mineral.
The particles are sucked into the lungs where they become lodged. Unable to clear them, the body reacts in a couple of different ways. The area can become inflamed and irritated, creating an environment primed for the development of lung cancer or mesothelioma. Or it can scar over the area, leading to what is now known as asbestosis. Neither situation is desirable.
In the late 1800’s the Buhl family noticed that the way metal was manufactured and sold was changing. They saw that there was a shift away from iron, and a shift toward steel. They capitalized on this notion, and they formed Sharon Steel in 1887. For the next 100 years they were a profitable and expanding business. Their plant in Farrell, Pennsylvania was responsible for the birth of the entire town. However, as steel production was outsourced, the company began to lose market share. In 1992 they shut down their operations for good. What is left is the rubble of their old plants, and the workers who are now suffering from the effects of long-term asbestos exposure.
As asbestos products, such as transite and amosite, age, they tend to break down. The asbestos fibers become friable, meaning they are easily crumbled. This asbestos dust will become airborne, and the workers nearby end up inhaling that dust. The asbestos becomes lodged in the lungs starting the decades long process of causing irreparable damage.
If the damage to an employee’s lungs is not bad enough, some of the friable asbestos would become lodged in a workers clothing and hair. These employees would then transfer the fibers home, where their family was also subjected.
The company known in the United States as the Shell Oil Company is actually a subsidiary of the Dutch oil giant The Royal Dutch Shell Group. Founded in 1907, the company was originally a merger between a Dutch oil company and a UK based transport company. These two wanted to become more competitive against the monopoly known as Standard Oil.
While operating in the United States, Shell Oil maintained not only oil refineries, but they also dabbled in the chemical business as well. To do so, large factories had to be built that incorporated the latest equipment, and the latest technology. In the mid-1900’s that meant constructing with the use of asbestos.
Throughout this time period nearly all construction incorporated the use of asbestos into buildings. It was durable, heat and flame resistant, when incorporated correctly it could be used to build countertops, flooring, wall coverings, shingles, and siding. This versatile mineral could also be incorporated into protective clothing in order to help insulate, and protect against flames, those who were working in close proximity to a heat source. Unfortunately, the mineral had one major flaw. It is a human carcinogen.
By the 1970’s the US had banned the use of asbestos in construction. However, there were many buildings already standing that did not remove the asbestos that was already present inside them. Despite the known dangers of this mineral, the companies that owned these buildings found it too costly to renovate, and instead subjected their employees to the dangers of prolonged asbestos exposure.
That exposure is now showing up, decades later, in serious medical conditions. Those employees who worked around the asbestos at Shell Oil refineries are being diagnosed with asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. These medical diagnoses are always fatal.
The Texas Company was founded in 1901 in order to exploit the newfound natural resource: oil. The company expanded and acquired many other petroleum companies, but stuck mainly to their primary products: oil and gasoline. In 1941 the company officially changed its name to Texaco (which stands for Texas Company). The company continues to grow and expand and in 2001 they merge with Chevron. To this day they are one of the strongest and largest oil companies in the United States. That growth came with the help of their hard working employees. Many of whom were subjected to asbestos exposure.
Oil refineries deal with miles of piping, high heat, chemicals, and the constant risk of fire and explosion. In order to cut down on some of these risks, many refineries used asbestos. This naturally occurring mineral has superb heat resistance and insulation properties. As a way to make sure their fluids maintain the proper temperature, pipes are wrapped in asbestos insulation.
But insulation is not the only product found in refineries. Asbestos ceiling and floor tiles were used extensively to resist corrosion in the event of a chemical spill. Many components of the equipment were made with asbestos and even the protective gear worn and used by the employees, gear that was supposed to protect them, incorporated asbestos. What happened was these employees were not protected at all.
Founded in 1901 in Pittsburgh, PA, the United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) is one of the largest producers of steel products in the world. During their history, US Steel has incorporated the use of many asbestos products. For years these products were used, even with the understanding that asbestos was, and is, a harmful product. The employees that were dealing with these products were often unaware of the dangers they were facing through regular asbestos exposure.
Steel workers would use products, or be exposed to products, such as fire resistant clothing, insulation, asbestos transite, and many others. They would never be warned of the dangers of using these products, and certain items, like asbestos transite, would break down. The friable asbestos would be inhaled as well as cling to their clothing. The steel workers would then transport the asbestos to their homes where their family members were also at risk of developing dangerous diseases.