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American Olean Tile Company had its beginning in 1912 in Olean, New York. At that time, the company operated under the name Olean Tile. These first products were asbestos-free. It wasn’t until the company was purchased by National Gypsum in 1958 that asbestos was added to the tile and related products.

Since then, the company has changed hands two more times and ended the inclusion of asbestos in its products. However, their past use endangers all those who come in contact with the asbestos-containing products. American Olean Tile Company tile has been used in schools, public spaces and homes across the country. The wide reach of the asbestos products has led to numerous lawsuits against the company.

01. History of Asbestos Use

American Olean Tile Company History of Asbestos Use

Quick Facts
  • Years in Operation: 1912 – present
  • Location: Dallas, Texas
  • Production: Mosaic tile, adhesive, asbestos backing board
  • Asbestos Trust: No

American Olean Tile Company first began operation in 1912 as Olean Tile Co. The company was formed by Charles T. Fuller, a gas light manufacturer, and O.W. Pierce, a metal craftsman. The two then hired an Alfred University student and started formally making tile in 1914. In 1915, three years after starting the company, the trio had just 11 workers. However, the company experienced exponential growth, and by the 1950s, they were a leader in the tile industry. Olean Tile Co.’s success impressed National Gypsum Company, who bought Olean Tile Co. in 1958.

When Olean Tile became a National Gypsum subsidiary, the company formally changed its name to American Olean Tile Company. It is during this period that asbestos fibers were first added to American Olean Tile Company products, including their tiles and flooring adhesives. A company catalog from the era, 1963 specifically, shows that American Olean recommended their tile be installed over cement asbestos board, which they also sold.

During their time of asbestos use, the company continued to grow. By 1964, American Olean Tile Company had 450 employees, all of whom may have been exposed to their asbestos products. In addition to the hundreds of employees who worked for the company across the United States, the asbestos-containing tiles and adhesives were used in commercial and institutional settings, potentially exposing thousands more.

Consumers, homeowners and children who lived or worked around the materials may still be at risk of developing a disease from their proximity to the fibers, as asbestos diseases have long latency periods. Those living in older homes or working in old buildings may still be at risk of exposure to old American Olean materials that haven’t been removed or replaced.

About 25 years after their purchase, National Gypsum Company sold American Olean Tile Company for about $330 million to Armstrong World Industries. Both parent companies, National Gypsum Company and Armstrong World Industries, have also been known to use asbestos in their products.

In 1995, American Olean Tile Company was sold yet again. Armstrong World Industries sold the company to Dal-Tile International, who still owns Amerian Olean.

02. Asbestos Products

American Olean Tile Company Asbestos Products

Like many flooring products during the early 1900s, American Olean Tile Company products contained asbestos in order to increase durability and ability to resist heat and fire. Until 1980, asbestos was commonly added to many building products, including flooring, adhesives and backing board used in tiling projects.

Products manufactured by American Olean Tile Company known to have contained asbestos include:

  • Floor tiles and adhesives
  • American Olean Tile Asbestos Backing Board
03. Occupational Exposure

American Olean Tile Company and Occupational Exposure

American Olean Tile began using asbestos under National Gypsum Company in 1958. Any employees of American Olean at that time may have been exposed to airborne asbestos fibers.

American Olean Tile had factories in several states across the country, including:

Those not employed by American Olean may also experience asbestos-related diseases due to occupational exposure to the company’s products. Construction workers and all those working to install American Olean asbestos-containing products were at an increased risk of asbestos inhalation. The tiles were often shaped for installation, creating ample toxic dust in the process.

Occupations Impacted by American Olean Tile Company's Asbestos Use

Today, occupational asbestos exposure may still occur among construction or demolition workers. These men and women may be exposed when working on older jobsites, including in older homes, schools and public buildings that may have been built with American Olean asbestos-containing products.

The inclusion of the asbestos tiles and adhesives in the home also creates exposure risk among homeowners. If the products are not properly removed by a trained professional, the toxic asbestos dust may be inhaled. When removed in a do-it-yourself fashion, or by an untrained handyman, airborne asbestos fibers may lead to asbestos-related diseases.

04. Asbestos Trust Fund

American Olean Tile Company Asbestos Trust Fund

American Olean Tile Company does not currently have an asbestos trust fund. However, two of their former parent companies, National Gypsum Company and Armstrong World Industries, are known for asbestos use and have trusts to compensate victims.

American Olean was a National Gypsum subsidiary during their asbestos use. This ownership may make National Gypsum liable for asbestos cases filed against the company. Those diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease due to American Olean asbestos products may be eligible for compensation from the trust.

The National Gypsum asbestos trust fund was formed in 2000.  By 2010, the trust had paid more than $200 million in asbestos-related claims. The trust is still operational and accepting claims today.

Tara is a senior content writer for
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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Jennifer is a legal advisor and contributor to
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.

Full Bio
Sources [+]
  • 1

    eBay. 1963 American Olean Ceramic Tile Catalog Cement ASBESTOS Board Installation. Catalogs.

  • 2

    Funding Universe. Dal-Tile International Inc. Company History. Company Profiles.

  • 3

    Michel C and Boudin K. Farewell, Dal-Tile. Olean Times Herald. December 2012.

  • 4

    Pircio N. Looking Back at Olean Tile. The Villager. December 2012.

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