James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. has been representing persons injured by asbestos products for more than 27 years. During that time, we have brought claims against many companies that manufactured or distributed asbestos containing materials. One of the companies most frequently sued or claimed against was Owens-Corning, formerly known as Owens-Corning Fiberglas (OCF). Many people will recognize Owens Corning’s famous cartoon logo, the Pink Panther, used to market its fiberglass insulation, but there is a much darker aspect to the story of Owens Corning. The history of this company, like that of many asbestos companies, shows a knowing failure to warn, or adequately warn, potential users of the dangers related to asbestos exposure.
Owens-Corning Fiberglas was founded in 1935 as a merger between two American glass companies, Owens Illinois and the Corning Glass Works, both of which were experimenting with a new material known as fiberglass. In 1938, it became a separate company with its own headquarters in Toledo, Ohio. It was not long before the new company began selling asbestos products.
Over the years, Owens-Corning sold a variety of asbestos containing products, including One Kote Cement and Navy Board. It manufactured asbestos products that were commonly used as insulation in homes, factories and ships. In 1996, Owens Corning Fiberglas shortened its name to Owens Corning.
One of the main asbestos products sold by Owens Corning was Kaylo, a calcium silicate insulation which contained asbestos. Between 1948 and 1958, Owens Corning marketed Kaylo manufactured by Owens-Illinois. Then, in 1958, Owens Corning purchased the Kaylo line from O-I and the factory in Berlin, New Jersey where Kaylo was produced. Owens Corning manufactured and sold asbestos-containing Kaylo until at least 1972. It eventually produced an asbestos- free form of Kaylo which was pink, in contrast to the asbestos version, which was white.
In 1997, Owens Corning acquired the Fibreboard Corporation, another company which had used asbestos in some of its products. As a result of this acquisition, Owens Corning acquire Fibreboard’s liability for injuries caused by its asbestos products.
Although Owens Corning received a great deal of information concerning the health hazards of asbestos, it did not put warnings on its products for many years, and when it finally did put warnings on asbestos containing materials, it failed to adequately warn users. In fact, during the 1950s, Owens Corning actually advertised that Kaylo was “non-toxic.”
Here are some examples of the evidence concerning Owens Corning’s knowledge of the hazards of asbestos exposure:
A January, 1942 internal memo documents a plan to “take the offensive” by giving information to the Asbestos Workers Union concerning asbestos in order to make fiberglass appear more attractive.
A December, 1943 internal memo states in part that: “In formulating our policy on admixtures with asbestos, we should keep on the alert because otherwise we will run the risk of smearing Fiberglas with the hazards of exposure to asbestos.” (emphasis in original).
A February, 1956 memo reports that Dr. Schepers of the Saranac Laboratory urged OCF to sponsor research to see if fiberglass was carcinogenic because asbestos has been “fairly well incriminated as a carcinogen.” The author of the memo observes that Dr. Schepers’s letter was “certainly nothing that we could show customers or a union.”
In 1956, Owens Corning and Owens-Illinois issued joint advertisements describing Kaylo insulation as “non-toxic.”
A September, 1963 memo prepared by OCF’s Newark Product Development Lab recognizes that Kaylo “when breathed into the lungs causes asbestosis which often leads to cancer.”
An August, 1964 memo questions whether OCF should begin putting warning labels on its asbestos products like Johns-Manville, another asbestos company, has done.
An August, 1966 memo notes that Kaylo is 12-18% asbestos, that asbestos is recognized as causing asbestosis, and that “Dr. Selikoff has stated that only one fiber in the body can cause cancer…” The author of this memo goes on to say that: “Again, I suggest that we consider the labeling of our Kaylo products in the same general way that J-M [Johns-Manville] labels their Thermobestos [an asbestos containing product]…”
When Owens Corning finally started putting warning labels on its products in 1966 or thereabouts, they stated that the contents contained asbestos, but did not identify any specific health hazards related to exposure. Although it changed the language of its label in 1970, the new language still failed to adequately warn of the dangers of asbestos exposure.
Many people who were exposed to dust from asbestos containing products such as those manufactured and marketed by Owens Corning developed asbestos related diseases, such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, in many cases, several years after the workers had retired. These injuries and deaths resulted in thousands of lawsuits being filed against Owens Corning.
Largely due to its asbestos lawsuits, Owens Corning filed for bankruptcy in October, 2005. The bankruptcy court approved a plan of reorganization in October, 2006. Since then, James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. has filed many bankruptcy claims against Owens Corning.
If you or a loved one have been injured through exposure to asbestos containing materials manufactured by companies like Owens-Corning, contact James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. at 304-347-5050. We may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries, especially if you have developed mesothelioma.
Sources: Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects (5th edition) ©2011.
Owens Corning Financial Reorganization, “Asbestos Chronology,” http://www2.owenscorning.com/finre/asbestos.html
“Owens Corning,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owens_Corning