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Founded by Gustaf de Laval in Sweden, Alfa Laval’s history in the United States dates back over 125 years to the establishment of The DeLaval Separator Company in 1885. Originating with de Laval’s development of a centrifugal separator, the company furthered its growth through the acquisition of a patent by a German inventor for conical metal discs—known as Alfa-discs—which would significantly increase the capacity of the separator.

The year 1890 brought the introduction of the world’s first continuous separator implementing the Alfa-disc technology. That same year, an American by the name of Philip Sharples met with de Laval in Sweden and convinced him that DeLaval separators could be manufactured in the United States with Swedish components. This partnership was formed and endured until 1915 when Sharples son formed the Sharples Corporation, not only ending a partnership, but creating a competing entity. By 1942, the DeLaval Separator Company had developed an oil separator in response to a shortage of lubricating oil during World War II, and with this technology became an important supplier to the United States Navy. The company continued its expansion with the acquisition of a heat exchange company (American Heat Reclaiming Corporation [AHRCO]) in 1962 and a fluid handling company (G&H Products Corporation) in 1963. Using a combination of the name of its Alfa-discs and the company’s founder, the DeLaval Separator Company became known as Alfa Laval, Inc. in 1980. In 1988, Alfa Laval reunited with its former partner and competitor, Sharples, to form a union that would result in the largest separation company worldwide. Headquarted in Lund, Sweden, with head offices for U.S. operations in Richmond, Virginia, Alfa Laval currently employs 11,500 individuals worldwide (710 in the U.S.) and remains an international leader in three technologies: heat transfer, separation, and fluid handling.

Products Manufactured by Alfa Laval, Inc. that Contained Asbestos

Strength, flexibility, heat and fire resistance—these attributes of asbestos made it a valuable material for use by the United States Navy in its ships and shipyards, primarily from the 1930s through the 1970s. Even though the Navy Surgeon General reported the dangers of prolonged exposure to asbestos as early as 1939, it was not until nearly four decades later that the use of this substance was limited and its harmful health effects more widely recognized.

Since the onset of World War II, Alfa Laval has been a key supplier of oil separators to the marine industry, in particular the United States Navy. The oil purifiers used on navy vessels removed impurities from fuel and lube oil by means of a centrifuge which may have included asbestos components.

The asbestos components used in products produced by Alfa Laval, Inc. may have included, but are not limited to:

  • brake pads
  • gaskets
  • packing

Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Inhalation of asbestos-contaminated air places individuals at an increased risk for the development of several harmful forms of lung disease, such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. With regard to products produced by Alfa Laval, Inc., occupational exposure may include anyone who came in contact with the asbestos-containing components of its oil purifiers used aboard navy vessels. Such occupations at risk for this type of exposure may include marines, navy personnel (e.g., machinist mates), and shipbuilders. Employees of Alfa-Laval (e.g., factory workers) involved in the production of the oil purifiers may also be at increased risk for exposure. In addition, the attachment of asbestos fibers to the hair and clothing of the aforementioned individuals makes secondhand exposure by family members an unfortunate reality.

Exposure to asbestos can have a significant impact on an individual’s long-term health and quality of life, and may potentially result in death. If you believe you have been exposed to the harmful effects of asbestos, it is important to seek consultation from a physician specializing in lung disease in order to be screened for asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Recent News

As of year ending 2009, Alfa Laval, Inc. was cited as a co-defendant in 444 asbestos lawsuits with a combined total of 564 plaintiffs. At this time, Alfa Laval believed that these lawsuits would not have any negative effects on the company’s finances or overall operations and intended to challenge each lawsuit on the grounds that each claim was without merit.

Written By

Tara Strand Senior Content Writer

Tara Strand specializes in researching and writing about asbestos, raising awareness and advocating for a ban.

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Reviewed By

Jennifer Lucarelli Legal Advisor and Contributor

Jennifer Lucarelli is a partner at the law firm of Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney & Meisenkothen, specializing in asbestos litigation.

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