CertainTeed Corporation Company History
Headquartered in Valley Forge, PA, the CertainTeed Corporation ranks as North America’s leading manufacturer of commercial and residential building materials. The company, which was founded by George M. Brown as the General Roofing Manufacturing Company in 1904, began its life as a small producer of roofing materials to local companies in East St. Louis, Illinois. Today, CertainTeed continues to provide top-quality roofing products to clients across the US and Canada, and has expanded its offerings to encompass the manufacture a wide variety of general construction materials, including: cement siding (both vinyl and fiber), pipe products, gypsum, foundations, insulation, decking, trim, fence, railing and ceiling products.
Purchased in 1988 by Saint-Gobain -- one of the top 100 industrial companies in the world, and the world’s top-selling manufacturer ofbuilding materials -- CertainTeed is now a subsidiary of a global conglomerate that employs more than 200,000 workers in 57 countries worldwide, with 70 production facilities and 7,000 workers located in North America. (Saint-Gobain Abrasives, Saint-Gobain Ceramic Materials, Saint-Gobain Containers, L.L.C., Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Norandex Building Materials Distribution are among the other US-based companies currently owned and operated by Saint-Gobain.)
With the support of its internationally renowned ownership, and building on a century-long reputation for quality customer service and innovation, CertainTeed aims to provide its clients with top-of-the-line, environmentally sound products and services. In the past 30 years, CertainTeed has been awarded more than 350 patents by the US government for its original products.
Products Manufactured by CertainTeed that Contained Asbestos
Throughout much of the 20th Century, CertainTeed Corporation included asbestos in the manufacture of the best-selling construction materials their clients relied on. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that provides industrial products excellent protection from heat, chemical and biological exposure. It is also an extremely effective (and inexpensive) binding and strengthening agent -- all of which made it particularly useful to CertainTeed in the production of their cement-based products, including water pipes that were used by numerous utility companies in the US, and by the Navy, for many years.
When CertainTeed began using asbestos in its products in the 1930s, the full truth about the dangers of asbestos was not widely known. Today, however, we know just how much damage asbestos can cause to the human body. As products containing asbestos deteriorate or are disturbed, tiny asbestos fibers can be released into the air; these fibers can then be inhaled and/or ingested by people nearby, heightening the risk that these individuals will develop asbestosis or mesothelioma cancer.
Though CertainTeed ceased manufacturing products that contained asbestos in the late 1980s, some of the asbestos-containing materials that they sold for construction purposes are still in use in buildings constructed before the moratorium on asbestos use was issued. CertainTeed products that are known to have contained asbestos include:
- Asbestos Cement Sheets
- CertainTeed Asbestos Roof Coating
- CertainTeed Asbestos Cement Pipe
- CertainTeed Cold Process Cement
- CertainTeed Joint Treating Compound
- CertainTeed Plastic Cement
- CertainTeed Sealing Cement
- Kalite Acoustical (Sound Absorbing) Plaster
- Wet Seal Plastic Cement
Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
CertainTeed’s client list is mainly comprised of companies in the construction industry, but one of their biggest clients throughout the 20th Century was the US Navy. Therefore, individuals who worked for independent construction companies that used CertainTeed products, and those who served in the Navy, are most at risk for developing an asbestos-related illness as a result of exposure to CertainTeed materials.
Construction workers of all kinds -- drywall and flooring installers, roofers, tile setters, plumbers, pipefitters, insulators, electricians, boilermakers, bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers, welders, cement and sheet metal workers -- run a significant risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. In addition, machine operators and others employed by utility companies using CertainTeed products (especially cement piping) may need to be evaluated for illness. Even workers who did not directly handle CertainTeed’s asbestos-containing products could carry an increased likelihood of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases; just being in proximity to these materials as they were installed, repaired, retrofitted or maintained may have been enough to expose workers to dangerous asbestos fibers in the air.
Navy personnel (including sailors and deckhands, shipyard workers and anyone else who served aboard or around a military vessel during the time that asbestos was in use) also run an extremely high risk of developing an asbestos cancer. Specific materials produced by CertainTeed and used widely by the Navy include CertainTeed’s cold process, plastic and sealing cements; asbestos cement pipe; asbestos roof coating; and joint treating compound. If you or someone you know worked with or was exposed to any of these products, it is important that you learn more about the causes and symptoms of mesothelioma.
In addition, it is important to remember that it’s not just workers themselves who are at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses: their families are vulnerable too. Asbestos fibers that cling to the clothing of exposed workers have long been known to pose a threat to others that handle their clothes. For that reason, family members who were in regular contact with the work clothes and other potentially exposed belongings of workers could also develop an asbestos-related disease.
Learn more about the risk factors for mesothelioma and how the disease is treated.
As of December 2010, CertainTeed Corporation has been named as a co-defendant in multiple cases of alleged asbestos exposure nationwide. Plaintiffs in these cases maintain that not only did the asbestos containing material produced by CertainTeed expose workers to dangerous levels of airborne asbestos, but also that CertainTeed knew -- many years before it disallowed the use of asbestos in its products -- that asbestos could indeed cause harm and even death to those exposed to the airborne form of it, but did nothing to warn or protect those using their products until many years later.
In May of 2010, a Los Angeles jury awarded a record $208 million to the wife of a retired worker at the Department of Water and Power, who developed mesothelioma as a result of laundering the clothes of her husband -- a repairman of asbestos-containing cement water pipes manufactured by CertainTeed. The plaintiff’s lawyers argued effectively that the woman’s proximity to those clothes -- which likely carried on them asbestos dust from her husband’s work -- were the cause of her mesothelioma, and held both CertainTeed and her husband’s employer responsible for damages.
CertainTeed is appealing this decision. None of the products produced by the company at present are manufactured with asbestos.
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