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The use of asbestos in products to help provide protection from fire first began centuries ago, but it became increasingly more common during the early twentieth century. Asbestos is a very effective material to provide fireproofing and fire protection, but it is also very dangerous when its microscopic fibers are inhaled. Since the 1980s, the use of asbestos has almost entirely been discontinued.

Fire Protection

Asbestos was an inexpensive additive used in numerous fire-resistant products. Beginning in the mid-1800s, asbestos was used in textiles, woven into fabrics to make them more resistant to fire. Some of the resulting products included suits for firefighters, laboratory gloves, and theater curtains. These textiles were also used in other fire-resistant fabrics, clothes, insulations, and coatings.

The use of asbestos was also quite common in construction materials to help with preventing fires. Some of these products included:

One of the nation’s most recognized companies, General Motors (GM) has been manufacturing automobiles for over 100 years. As the company grew, it entered other industries as well. Many of the products that GM and its subsidiaries created contained asbestos and, because of the size of GM, the number of people impacted by the company’s use of asbestos is extensive.

History of GM

GM was founded in Flint, Michigan on September 16, 1908 by William Durant. At that time, GM only owned the Buick Motor Company. However, Durant would go on to purchase more than 30 companies with the intention of bringing all of them together under the GM label. These companies included Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, and Cadillac. Today, GM is headquartered in Detroit, Michigan.

As the company began expanding, it entered other industries apart from the manufacturing of automobiles. For example, it acquired subsidiaries like Frigidaire and the Delco Appliance Corporation. Additionally, GM helped during World War II by producing tanks, naval ships, and planes. Today, GM also provides consumer lending services.

The automobile industry was one of the driving forces behind the growth of the United States. Today, automobiles are everywhere you look and have been for decades. They provide reliable and easy access to transportation. Unfortunately, they also contained significant amounts of asbestos.

Asbestos in Automotive Parts – Products Containing Asbestos

Asbestos was used in automobile parts because of its heat-resistance capabilities. It was commonly used in brake and clutch components. Other auto parts that contained asbestos include hood liners, gasket materials, heat seals, and valve rings.

Founded in 1854, W.R. Grace (Grace) is responsible for one of the largest asbestos contamination cases in U.S. history. The contamination caused severe harm to its employees and to the residents of the community of the contamination site. The harm forced the company to file for bankruptcy, organize an asbestos trust fund, and face criminal charges. Despite these obstacles, Grace continues to operate today, with its headquarters in Columbia, Maryland.

W.R. Grace and Asbestos History

Grace purchased vermiculite mines and a processing mill in Libby, Montana in 1963, continuing operation there until 1990. The company employed up to 200 people and produced up to 200,000 tons of vermiculite per year. Unfortunately, vermiculite mines are often a source of asbestos as well. This was the case for Grace’s mine and it posed a significant risk to the people who worked in the mines and to those who lived in the area. It is estimated that more than 400 Libby residents have died due to exposure to asbestos fibers.

With origins of its company tracing back to before the Civil War, the Johns Manville Corporation is responsible for a significant amount of the asbestos-containing products sold in the United States. Exposure to microscopic asbestos fibers can lead to the development of mesothelioma and other serious health conditions. In some circumstances, it is possible for victims to recover monetary damages for the harm caused through asbestos-related claims, including mesothelioma litigation.

History of the Company

The H.W. Johns Manville Corporation is the result of a merger between the H.W. Johns Manufacturing Company, which used asbestos to manufacture fire resistant roofing, and the Manville Covering Company, which manufactured asbestos heat insulation. After the merger was completed in 1901, the company began manufacturing insulation and construction products for commercial, industrial, and residential buildings.

Asbestos contains microscopic fibers that, when released into the air, can be breathed into the lungs, where they can remain for several years before serious health issues become apparent. Exposure to these fibers can cause serious health issues, including cancers like mesothelioma. Insulation was the largest source of exposure to asbestos for workers throughout the 1900s.

Insulation Use

Insulation provides many benefits, including energy conservation, sound deadening, reduction of electrical conductivity, and help with the retention of hot and cold temperatures. Asbestos was particularly well-suited for these purposes, as it is fire resistant and a poor conductor of electricity. In addition, it was cheap and durable. The use of asbestos in insulation products began in the late 1800s to help protect against high-temperature pipes. By 1874, asbestos insulation products were commercially produced and sold on a large-scale basis.

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