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Asbestos Manufacturers and a History of Exposure

Asbestos companies in the U.S. began manufacturing the mineral in the late 1800s after learning of its fireproofing and insulating abilities. Despite research from 1924 recognizing the hazards associated with asbestos exposure, construction, shipbuilding, automotive, manufacturing, and other industries sought after the carcinogen for decades. Asbestos manufacturing increased during World War II when the military incorporated the mineral into shipbuilding components, insulation, protective clothing, and other applications.

The harmful late-stage health effects of asbestos exposure ultimately prompted regulations in the late 1970s, leading to the decline of the asbestos industry in the U.S. Those who worked in industries associated with asbestos use faced the risk of exposure, with potentially severe health consequences. Conditions resulting from asbestos exposure, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis, may take up to 50 years to develop. The latency period between exposure and the onset of symptoms makes it challenging to link health issues to workplace conditions. Understanding your occupation history, especially if you were employed by an asbestos company or had a job involving the use of asbestos products, can assist in identifying potential health issues and legal avenues early on. Continue reading for more insights into which companies have been held responsible and which companies are still paying the price.

Companies That Manufactured Asbestos Products

In the early 20th century, various asbestos companies emerged to meet the growing demand for mining and manufacturing the mineral into various products. Asbestos companies in the U.S. produced millions of tons between 1900-2000. Many asbestos companies were aware of the potential health risks of exposure, such as mesothelioma, but did not protect workers or warn consumers of the consequences of ingesting asbestos fibers. The negligence on their part has led victims of asbestos-related diseases to file lawsuits seeking compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages. Here are some notable companies from that era:

  • Johns Manville Corporation
  • Celotex Corporation
  • Rock Wool Manufacturing Company
  • Borg-Warner Inc.
  • Foster Wheeler
  • Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
  • United States Gypsum Company
  • Hollingsworth & Vose Company
  • Aurora Pump Company
  • Owens Corning Fiberglas Corporation
  • Owens Corning Fibreboard Corporation
  • Raybestos-Manhatten Co.
  • Kentile Floors

Companies Known for Asbestos Exposure Lawsuits

Lawsuits against asbestos companies began to emerge in the mid-1900s. One notable case was Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation in 1973. Clarence Borel, a former asbestos insulator, sued several manufacturers, including Fibreboard, claiming that their products had caused his disease. This case marked one of U.S. history’s first successful asbestos personal injury lawsuits.  Well-known asbestos exposure lawsuits have been filed against companies like Johns Manville and Raybestos. Another well-known company, Combustion Engineering, established an asbestos trust containing over $1 billion to compensate victims. The company once produced boilers, cement, insulation, and adhesive coatings that contained asbestos. Before the Combustion Engineering asbestos trust fund, most claims against the company’s boiler products resulted in settlement payouts.

Johns Manville Corporation

Founded in 1858, Johns Manville became one of the largest producers and distributors of asbestos products, such as insulation, cement, roofing shingles, and asbestos in the raw form. When Johns Manville Corporation filed for bankruptcy in 1982, part of the company’s reorganization plan included an asbestos trust fund worth about $2.5 billion to compensate future claimants. The Manville Trust was established in 1988 to resolve asbestos personal injury claims resulting from exposure.

Celotex Corporation

The Celotex Corporation was established in the early 1920s, at the start of the asbestos boom. The company mined and manufactured asbestos into ceiling tiles, pipe insulation, and other products. Increasing legal and financial issues led Celotex to file for bankruptcy in 1990, establishing an asbestos trust containing over $2 million in compensation funds. The Celotex Asbestos Settlement Trust was soon established in 1998 following the bankruptcy of Celotex Corporation and its subsidiary, Carey Canada. Carey Canada, owned by Celotex, was previously involved in asbestos mining and processing.

Rock Wool Manufacturing Company

Rock Wool Manufacturing Company began selling residential wool insulation in 1943 before expanding to support the industrial market in the 1950s. The company produced a few asbestos-containing products without alerting workers and consumers of the danger. Facing over 100,000 lawsuit claims, Rock Wool was found guilty of negligence in 1994. Shortly after, the company filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and established a trust worth an undisclosed amount on December 20, 1999. Unfortunately, the trust no longer accepts new claims; the deadline to file a claim was January 13, 2011.

Borg-Warner Inc.

Borg-Warner manufactured disk brake pads, clutch assembles, and transmission parts for motor vehicles, which contained chrysotile asbestos fibers. The carcinogen products were produced from the early 1950s until the 1980s and faced heavy scrutiny, which resulted in many lawsuits over several years. Thousands of victims and their families have filed lawsuits against Borg-Warner, but the company never set up a trust fund. Even as late as of 2020, it was recently announced by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) settled charges against BorgWarner Inc., for misstating its financial statements by failing to account for certain asbestos liabilities.

Foster Wheeler

In 1927, Foster Wheeler began producing equipment for the power generation, engineering, and construction industries. Their products included steam condensers, pumps, boiler components, gaskets, and seals. The U.S. Navy purchased much of the company’s marine-grade boiler products, which contained asbestos, exposing thousands of shipyard workers and Navy veterans. Foster Wheeler avoided bankruptcy in 2001 but continued to face further challenges. By 2006, Foster Wheeler had paid out $700 million on asbestos claims, acquired in 2014 due to industry debt, forming Amec Foster Wheeler. John Wood Group then acquired them in 2017. Unlike some companies, they lack a dedicated trust fund and rely on insurance for settlements. If you have an asbestos-related illness from Foster Wheeler’s products, consult a mesothelioma attorney for legal options.

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Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

Between the 1950s and 1970s, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. produced vinyl resins and chemicals used in synthetic rubber for automotive tires at various locations containing asbestos insulation. Automotive workers claimed they were exposed to asbestos when performing maintenance or repairs on the facility’s steam system, resulting in their cancer diagnosis. Former factory workers and their families have filed claims against Goodyear and received multi-million dollar settlements. Goodyear manufactured asbestos products in the 20th century, but unlike other companies that used products made with asbestos, they haven’t filed for bankruptcy or established an asbestos trust fund.

United States Gypsum Company

Operating from 1920 to 1978, the United States Gypsum Company (USG) initially mined and processed gypsum for external use before manufacturing its plaster and gypsum board products. USG supplied the asbestos-containing building material we now know as drywall, impacting many individuals. The company’s products were widely used in residential and commercial construction, leading to significant asbestos exposure among construction workers, homeowners, and maintenance crews. Despite growing evidence of asbestos hazards, USG continued producing these materials until the late 1970s. Following a 2001 bankruptcy filing, the company established a trust fund worth $3.96 billion in 2006 to compensate victims of asbestos-related diseases. This trust fund has since paid out billions in claims.

Hollingsworth & Vose Company

Hollingsworth & Vose Company once manufactured products containing asbestos, including gas masks and cigarette filters, at their location in Massachusetts. What started as a paper company in the late 1800s evolved into an operation in the 1950s, handling 25 tons of industrial paper for filters, cable, and electrical insulation. Notably, the American cigarette brand Kent reportedly sold more than 13 billion cigarettes containing Hollingsworth asbestos filters, leading to widespread exposure among smokers and non-smokers alike. Despite growing awareness of asbestos risks and the link to mesothelioma, the company continued using asbestos in its products into the mid-20th century. Former factory workers and smokers who developed health issues continue to file personal injury claims against the company. In response to these claims, Hollingsworth & Vose has faced numerous lawsuits and has been involved in various settlement agreements to compensate affected individuals.

Aurora Pump Company

Aurora Pump Company was founded in 1919 and produced asbestos-containing hydraulic and chemical pumps between 1927 and 1985. The U.S. Military purchased large amounts of Aurora Pump Company’s products to use on bases, ships, and submarines. The Aurora Pump Company widely manufactured asbestos-containing products for various industries, including shipbuilding during World War II. These materials, valued for their fire and heat resistance, were used in high-heat areas such as pump rooms. However, maintenance or deterioration of these products could have released harmful asbestos fibers into the air, leading to dangerous exposure and diseases like mesothelioma. Even with their asbestos litigation cases, the company has not filed for bankruptcy or established an asbestos trust fund.

Owens Corning Fiberglas Corporation

Corning Glass and Owens-Illinois came together in 1938 and established Owns Corning Fiberglas Corporation. For the first few decades of its operation, the glass fiber company prominently manufactured insulation containing asbestos and eventually acquired Fibreboard Corporation, which made other asbestos-containing insulation and construction-related products. This acquisition made Owens Corning liable for injuries related to asbestos exposure caused by Fibreboard’s products. Owens Corning established an asbestos trust fund in 2006 worth 3.42 billion to address the surplus of legal claims. The program quickly grew to a point where Owens Corning announced it could no longer afford the debt and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2000.

Owens Corning Fibreboard Corporation

Owens Corning merged with Fibreboard Corporation in 1997, establishing Owens Corning/Fibreboard Corporation. Before merging, both companies used asbestos products at their plant locations in California, Texas, Indiana, and Georgia. The combined debt from claims filed against both companies drove Owens Corning/Fibreboard Corporation into bankruptcy in 2000. The company funded a trust fund worth $1.56 billion to address the claims.

Raybestos-Manhatten Co.

Known for manufacturing automotive parts, Raybestos-Manhattan incorporated asbestos into brake linings and clutch facings. The Connecticut-based company was founded in 1902 and invented the woven brake lining. Although efficient, the brake lining design contained asbestos until 1982. The contaminated product resulted in numerous lawsuits paid by an asbestos trust in 2001. Raymark has a long history of asbestos litigation. In 1987, Raytech acquired Raybestos’ non-asbestos assets, with Raymark initially shielding Raytech from asbestos liabilities until bankruptcy proceedings nullified the agreement. Both companies sought bankruptcy protection in 1989. Raytech re-emerged in 2001 and established the Raytech Corporation Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust, which paid out $1.2 million in 2020 and increased its payment percentage from 0.84% to 0.92% in 2018.

Kentile Floors

Kentile Floors operated from 1898 until it merged with Metex in 1998.  Throughout its 100-year history, Kentile Floors manufactured vinyl, rubber, and cork floor tiles. The company sold various products with asbestos between the 1950s and 1970s without warning workers and consumers. Renovating and damaging Kentile asbestos tiles inside homes, schools, and offices can lead to exposure risks. Metex established an asbestos trust in 2015 to pay 6,000 pending and future claims.

United States Asbestos Manufacturing History

Historically, the United States imported most of its asbestos from countries rich in natural deposits, such as Canada and Brazil. Asbestos companies, including New England Asbestos Mining and Milling Company and the King City Asbestos Company, mined their asbestos deposits discovered in the early 1900s in Vermont and California. The mining process involved extraction from natural deposits, often in large veins or seams within rock formations. The primary types of asbestos mined in the U.S. were chrysotile (white asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos), and crocidolite (blue asbestos). Once mined, asbestos was processed and refined to produce fibers that could be incorporated into a wide range of products.

Companies that used asbestos products employed individuals in various occupations, subjecting them to potential exposure risks. In some cases, companies across various industries concealed the risks and downplayed the known dangers of asbestos exposure to maintain profitability and avoid legal repercussions. Workers unknowingly handled and worked with asbestos-containing materials because their employer failed to provide proper safety protocols, protective equipment, or information about potential health hazards. Some specific occupations at risk of exposure include:

  • Shipyard workers
  • Veterans
  • Boiler workers
  • Insulators
  • Pipefitters
  • Engineers
  • Power plant workers
  • Chemical plant workers
  • Metal workers
  • Factor workers
  • Lumberyard workers
  • Construction workers
  • Electricians

Asbestos Manufacturing and Production Today

Even in today’s age, the battle to ban asbestos continues, as just this year, in 2024, the EPA moved to start banning the most commonly used form of asbestos. Asbestos production and use have significantly declined in the United States and other countries. Some European Union countries, Australia, and others have completely banned products containing it altogether. Worldwide, China, India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka remain large importers and consumers of asbestos products. Countries like Russia and Brazil export millions of tons of the mineral yearly, with asbestos companies like Orenburg Minerals, Kostanai Minerals, and Uralasbest being among the largest producers.

In the United States, federal and state officials have limited the number of asbestos-containing products but have not banned it altogether. However, as mentioned previously in the article, the EPA has moved to ban the most common form, white asbestos. A partial ban was issued in 1989, outlawing the manufacturing, importing, processing, and distribution of some existing products containing asbestos and limiting the sale of new uses. Currently, imported products can legally contain up to 1% of the mineral and can still be found in asbestos diaphragms, talcum powers, potting soil, and roofing materials. Some water treatment and disinfection chemical producers currently import raw chrysotile asbestos for use in their products.

Asbestos Companies Lawsuits and Trust Funds

Companies like Bayer AG faced recent allegations of misleading consumers about the safety of talc-based powders. Due to the proximity of talc and asbestos mineral deposits, asbestos can sometimes be present in talc powder. Numerous lawsuits claimed that their products contained asbestos and contributed to the development of ovarian cancer in some users. The modernization of the Cosmetics Regulation Act (MoCRA) of 2022 expanded the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate cosmetics to tighten cosmetic safety standards.

Personal injury lawsuits involving other companies have been ongoing, with some cases resulting in significant settlements. The number of lawsuits throughout the years put significant financial strain on asbestos companies. To address the claims, many filed for bankruptcy protection to restructure their finances out of legal obligations. As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, these companies established around 60 asbestos trust funds worth $30 billion to provide financial relief to victims and their families.

If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you can file a lawsuit against companies responsible for your exposure. Filing an asbestos lawsuit involves several steps, including obtaining a medical evaluation and gathering details about your exposure. It can be effective to consult with an attorney specializing in asbestos-related cases.

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