follansbee plantFor the world, The Industrial Revolution brought many new opportunities. Everything changed. New products emerged. Buildings grew higher. People could travel more easily from place to place. And industry grew in leaps and bounds. The world would never be the same.

Eventually, factories were everywhere in the United States. Workers were employed in plants that helped produce electricity, made chemicals, built cars, and manufactured clothing. It was a good time. Everyone seemed to have a job, though not necessarily a high-paying or safe job, but a job nonetheless. In some families, generations were employed in the same industry.

Dads and sons built steam engines together and moms and daughters worked in factories making dresses or on an assembly line where food was canned and shipped to markets everywhere.

During World War II, everyone joined the war effort. Those who weren’t fighting overseas worked in the nation’s shipyards, made ammunition, or assisted in some other way. Women became a regular sight in U.S. factories and “Rosie the Riveter” became an icon of the hard-working wartime woman.

After the war, the construction boom meant new neighborhoods in many U.S. towns and cities. Many men took jobs building houses, office buildings, shopping complexes, and more. The trend continued for the next few decades and it seemed that all was well with the world.

However, throughout much of the 20th century, thousands upon thousands of U.S. workers were employed in industries which provided jobs that were certainly less than safe. True, they may have looked safe at first glance, but – sadly – these jobs meant working with asbestos products and being exposed to toxic asbestos on a daily basis.

Usually, workers had no idea they were doing something that could compromise their health. They didn’t know asbestos was dangerous and no one ever told them, even though it quickly became evident to executives in many industries that asbestos was making people sick.

Today, it’s possible to look back and measure the scope of asbestos use and to shake one’s head in disbelief. The toxic mineral could be found in literally thousands of products used and manufactured from the early years of the 20th century until about 1980. Listed below are some of the categories of products in which asbestos was used abundantly.

Adhesives and related products

In the construction industry, there were many places where asbestos could hide. It might come as a surprise that asbestos was readily used in adhesives, often the kind that adhered floor and ceiling tiles and drywall to other surfaces. Some of the items in this category include:

• Bonding cement
• Caulking
• Duct adhesive
• Standard cement
• Mastics
• Mortar
• Sealer
• Welding rods

Consumers will probably recognize the names of a number of the companies that produced asbestos-containing adhesives and other similar products. They include:

• 3M
Armstrong
• Celotex
• Georgia Pacific
• National Gypsum
• Uniroyal/BF Goodrich

Asbestos Paper Products

Asbestos paper was manufactured to function as insulation and was generally used to line steam pipes, air conditioning units, electrical conduits, and other similar products. Its fire-resistant properties made asbestos the ideal component for paper insulation. Asbestos paper products had many uses and could be found on and in walls, in furnaces, and as building materials, touted for their strength and durability. These types of products included:

• Corrugated paper
• Millboard
• Flexboard
• Vinyl wallpaper
• Permaboard

Some of the companies that manufactured these types of asbestos-containing items included:

• Johns Manville
• Keene
• Nicolet
• U.S. Gypsum
• Raymark
• GAF

Automotive Products

Mechanics of the 20th century, as well as those who worked in auto manufacturing, were frequently exposed to asbestos, which was found in a lot of the friction products used in cars. These included:

• Brakes linings, pads, and drums
• Disc brakes
• Clutch linings
• Elevator brake shoes
• Transmission plates

Products such as these can still be found in old cars and mechanics should always be on the lookout for asbestos materials when repairing or replacing brakes or clutches. Companies that manufactured these products included:

• Abex
• Anchor
• Johns Manville
• Bendix
• Unarco
• Raymark

Paints, plasters, and related products

A number of different types of products fall into this category. These were used in both commercial and residential properties and might still be found in older homes or buildings. This includes:

• Paint
• Plaster
• Putty
• Spackling
• Filler
• Joint compound
• Acoustical plaster

Companies that made these products may have included:

• Bondex
• Kelly-Moore
• National Gypsum
• U.S. Gypsum
• Georgia Pacific
• W.R. Grace

Electrical Products

Naturally, heat and electricity go together. So did asbestos products and electricity. That’s because asbestos products could drastically reduce the chance of fire when combined with electrical items. Some asbestos-containing electrical products included:

• Cables and wires
• Electric boards
• Wiring insulation

Manufacturers of these products included:

• General Electric
• Westinghouse
• U.S. Gypsum
• Johns Manville
• Nicolet

Mechanical Products

Mechanical-related asbestos products were found throughout factories, mills, refineries, and other manufacturing facilities in the United States for much of the 20th century. Workers, especially maintenance staff, were exposed regular to these products, which included:

• Boilers
• Gaskets
• Valves
• Turbines
• Pumps
• Furnaces
• Generators

There were many companies that produced these items and many have been held responsible for their negligent manufacturing processes. These companies include:

• Babcock & Wilcox
• Foster-Wheeler
• General Electric
• Raymark
• Garlock
• Westinghouse

Tiles

Tiles can be found on walls, floors, and ceilings, and for decades, many different kinds of tiles contained asbestos. These tiles may have been place in homes, schools, offices, factories, and many other high-traffic spots where they often became damaged, triggering airborne asbestos dust. Manufacturers of tiles that contained asbestos included:

• Armstrong
• Flintkote
• Kentile
• Owens-Corning
• National Gypsum
• U.S. Gypsum

Packing Material

Packing material, used to protect items when being transported or used to keep some items safe from extreme hot and cold, often contained asbestos fibers. The asbestos contained within acted as insulation and, while it certainly did its job, packing material containing asbestos was hazardous to the health of those who encountered it. These dangerous asbestos-containing packing materials may have included:

• Gaskets and gasketing material
• Rope packing
• Sheet packing
• Braided packing

Companies that were well-known for their manufacturing of asbestos-containing packing materials included:

• Anchor
• Garlock
• AW Chesterton
• Johns Manville
• John Crane
• Pittsburgh Corning
• Raymark
• Unarco
• Westinghouse

Pipe Covering

Pipes are everywhere. They carry all sorts of liquids and gasses from one place to another. They’re in homes, offices, factories, schools. Sometimes what passes through them is extremely hot or cold, or sometimes the areas in which they are installed are of extreme temperatures.

So insulation is necessary to protect the pipes and what’s inside. For decades, pipe covering materials included asbestos, since it’s an excellent heat-resistant material and is especially durable. Related items that may have also included asbestos are:

• Pipe insulation
• Block insulation
• Sponge block
• Duct insulation
• Pre-formed pipe wrap
• Tank jackets (for water heaters)

These items were manufactured by the following companies:

• AC & S
• Celotex
• Crown Cork & Seal
• Eager-Picher
• Fibreboard
• GAF
• Johns Manville
• Keene
• Nicolet
• Owens Corning
• Turner and Newall
• Unarco
• U.S. Gypsum

Fireproofing Materials

Fireproofing materials were the most logical place in which to find asbestos. After all, the “miracle mineral” was excellent at stopping fires due to its resistant properties and manufacturers believed these were the best products for consumers to purchase to keep fire at bay. These products included:

• Fire blankets
• Fire doors
• Asbestos curtains
• Weather coating
• Boiler coating
• Asbestos spray
• Insulation jacketing

Manufacturers of fireproofing items like the ones mentioned above included:

• Armstrong
• Kaiser
• Keene
• National Gypsum
• W.R. Grace
• United States Mineral
• Johns Manville

Refractory Products

Refractory products include those used for industrial incinerators, blast furnaces, kilns, and nuclear reactors. They are designed to withstand extremely high temperatures, especially of more than 1000 degrees. If manufactured correctly, they would maintain their strength and shape under the harshest of conditions. Refractory products include:

• Firebrick
• Marinite
• Refractory Cement
• Castables

Manufacturers of these heavy-duty refractory products included:

• A.P. Green
• Harbison-Walker
• GAF
• Combustion Engineering
• Babcock & Wilcox
• Harbison Walker
• Johns Manville
• Quigley

Textiles and Cloth

Today, the word textiles usually refers to fabric or paper, but it can also include a wealth of other products that once contained asbestos. That’s why textile mill workers are often near the top of the list when it comes to ranking those who were liable to be diagnosed with asbestos. Some individuals were even given protective clothing that – incidentally – may have protected them from heat but only added to their asbestos woes.

Products in this category include:

• Asbestos blankets
• Asbestos canvas
• Asbestos felt
• Asbestos wool
• Asbestos yarn
• Lagging
• Protective aprons, gloves/mittens, dust masks, respirators

The companies that manufactured these asbestos-containing textiles and cloth include:

• Johns Manville
• HK Porter
• AW Chesterton
• 3M
• Pacor
• Raymark
• Johns Manville
• Uniroyal
• Atlas Turner

Rope and related products

Asbestos rope is not standard rope that contained asbestos. It was more likely used for insulation or for packing. It was highly toxic as fibers broke off easily and penetrated the air. Products in this category included:

• Sheet rope
• Tape
• Wicking
• Asbestos cord
• Cork covering

Companies that manufactured asbestos rope products included:

• Amatex
• Celotex
• Johns Manville
• Raymark
• Garlock
• Keasbey & Mattison
• Unarco

Siding/Shingles

Many construction products contained varying amounts of asbestos. Siding and shingles were two of those that were widely used for decades. These types of shingles and roofing were especially popular for use in building homes, mostly from the 1950s through the 1970s. Chances are there are still many American homes that have toxic shingles and siding on them.

Problems occur when the products become old, dried-out, or damaged. At that point, asbestos fibers can be released into the air. Hence, removing these products from the home can be quite costly.
Besides siding and shingles, other related products that may have contained asbestos included:

• Cement siding
• Flashing
• Roofing felt
• Stucco
• Tar paper

Some of the manufacturers of these siding/shingle products included:

• Flintkote
• GAF
• Johns Manville
• National Gypsum
• U.S. Gypsum
• Boise Cascade
• Celotex
• Certainteed
• H.B. Fuller

As is evident by this lengthy list, there were many manufacturers who didn’t give a second thought to the use of asbestos in their products, even though there was overwhelming evidence of the mineral’s danger. Many of the companies listed above have been inundated with lawsuits related to asbestos and many filed bankruptcy long ago, unable to keep up with the claims and seeking protection from more to come.

Some of those companies have now set up asbestos trust funds to compensate individuals- past, present, and future – who were or will be sickened by their asbestos products.