Products Manufactured by ASARCO that Contained Asbestos
ASARCO’s ties to asbestos can be traced to several of the company’s subsidiaries. One, CAPCO Pipe Company, Inc., also known as Cement Asbestos Products Company, was a manufacturer of asbestos cement pipes used mainly for sewer and water systems. A second subsidiary, Lac d’Amiante du Quebec Ltd., also known as Lake Asbestos of Quebec, Ltd. and LAQ Canada, Ltd., supplied raw asbestos fibers from mines in Canada.
In one noteworthy project of the late 1950s, ASARCO, through its Lake Asbestos of Quebec subsidiary, turned the two-mile long Black Lake in eastern Canada into one of the world’s largest open-pit asbestos mines. The $32.5 million project – which required ASARCO to completely drain the lake and lower its floor – had a goal of supplying about 100,000 tons of asbestos each year, adding an estimated 7 percent to the world’s supply of asbestos. Most of that asbestos was eventually exported to the United States.
Products manufactured or distributed by ASARCO that contained asbestos include (but are not limited to)
- Cement Pipes (through its subsidiary, Cement Asbestos Products Company)
- Raw Asbestos Fiber (through it’s subsidiary, Lake Asbestos of Quebec)
Occupations at Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Today experts and the public are well aware of the health risks associated with asbestos exposure. That is, we know that when the long, crystalline fibers that comprise the mineral are inhaled, they can become lodged in a person’s lung tissue and cause serious diseases like asbestosis, a chronic inflammation of the lungs, and mesothelioma, a rare and inoperable type of lung cancer.
But for decades, from the late 1800s until the 1970s, the use of asbestos in the United States was not regulated, and thousands of workers were exposed to the substance every day on the job. In an extreme example, individuals who worked at one of ASARCO’s asbestos mines in Canada, such as the Black Lake mine operated by Lake Asbestos of Quebec, were constantly surrounded by raw asbestos fibers, putting them at a clear risk of asbestos exposure.
It wasn’t just mine workers whose health was threatened, though; in fact, a huge web of people, both producers and consumers of asbestos products, could have been impacted. The asbestos fibers taken from ASARCO’s mines were shipped mostly to the United States, where they may have been used to create anything from pipe insulation to gaskets to lawn furniture. Factory workers who manufactured these products in various facilities were put at risk if they inhaled deadly asbestos fibers in storerooms or on the assembly line. Truck drivers who transported the raw fibers or, in some cases, finished asbestos products, may have been exposed. And years later, when these products began to age and break down in people’s homes and businesses, they released asbestos dust into the air and put untold thousands of Americans at risk of breathing the cancer-causing fibers.