01. History of Asbestos Use
Bechtel Corporation History of Asbestos Use
- Years in Operation: 1898 – present
- Location: Reston, Virginia
- Production: Construction
- Asbestos Trust: No
Bechtel Corporation was founded in 1898 by Warren Bechtel under the name the W.A. Bechtel Company. Early in the company’s history, Warren constructed railroads in the Midwest with his brother and three sons.
The Bechtel family grew their company throughout the early 1900s by working railroad and construction jobs. By 1925, W.A. Bechtel Company was the largest construction business in the western United States and was officially incorporated. This resulted in the company changing its name to Bechtel Corporation.
Bechtel Corporation’s breakthrough project came in the 1930s, when it joined a group of companies hired to build the Hoover Dam. The project lasted from 1931 to 1936 and established Bechtel Corporation as a leader in building national landmarks.
Notable Bechtel Corporation Projects
- The Canol Pipeline
- The Channel Tunnel
- The Hong Kong International Airport
- The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
- The Trans-Arabian Pipeline
Bechtel Corporation used a variety of asbestos products in building electrical power plants, pipelines, oil refineries and nuclear power plants as early as the 1940s. Although Bechtel Corporation did not manufacture its own asbestos products, the company purchased these products from third-party asbestos companies to use within its building projects.
The company used asbestos insulation in hot pipes, boilers and turbines on various jobsites.
In 1941, Bechtel Corporation began building a shipyard and hundreds of ships during World War II as part of an agreement with the U.S. military. First, the corporation aided in the construction of the Sausalito Shipyard & Marina in California. Bechtel Corporation then used the Sausalito Shipyard as a shipbuilding site.
In order to complete the work, Bechtel Corporation started two shipbuilding companies named Marinship Corporation and California Shipbuilding Corporation (CalShip). These Bechtel-owned companies built 467 cargo ships, 15 Liberty ships and 78 tankers and oilers for the U.S. Navy.
The naval vessels built by Calship and the Marinship Corporation contained asbestos. In 2008, the Sausalito Shipyard tested positive for asbestos during a remediation effort.
After the war, Bechtel Corporation and its divisions continued to participate in large-scale national and international building projects. The company continued to use asbestos products at Bechtel Corporation jobsites for several decades.
In line with government regulations, many U.S. companies discontinued the use of asbestos in the 1980s. As late as 1996, a Bechtel Corporation and Parsons Brinckerhoff jobsite in Boston, Massachusetts tested positive for asbestos. The company was accused of failing to track asbestos dumping at the site.
Bechtel Corporation eventually phased out use of the mineral, but the company’s previous usage exposed thousands of workers to the mineral. Bechtel Corporation has faced lawsuits from individuals who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease as a result. The company still faces asbestos exposure claims today.
Bechtel Corporation remains one of the largest construction companies in the United States and pays claimants using its own funds.
02. Asbestos Products
Bechtel Corporation Asbestos Products
As a contracted construction company, Bechtel Corporation utilized a variety of asbestos materials at various jobsites. These asbestos products included building materials, adhesives and insulation.
Asbestos-containing materials were included to improve durability and resistance to heat. However, the addition led to dangerous asbestos exposure for those who worked in close proximity to the products.
Asbestos products used on Bechtel Corporation jobsites include, but are not limited to:
- Cement products
- Flooring materials
- Packing materials
- Thermal and electrical insulation
03. Occupational Exposure
Bechtel Corporation and Occupational Exposure
Bechtel Corporation employed thousands of individuals throughout the company’s history. Due to the company’s wide use of asbestos, occupational exposure was common on Bechtel jobsites around the world. These sites include power plants, oil refineries, bridges, pipelines and more.
The company’s relationship with the U.S. Navy also subjected military members to asbestos exposure. During World War II, Bechtel built a shipyard and hundreds of ships for the Navy.
04. Asbestos Litigation
Asbestos Litigation Against Bechtel Corporation
Due to the widespread application of asbestos in Bechtel Corporation’s construction business, the company has faced a number of lawsuits from those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
In one case, Bill Henthorn was diagnosed with lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Henthorn experienced occupational exposure from a career in the HVAC industry. HVAC workers frequently came into contact with asbestos-containing materials like heating ducts, pipes and insulation. These professionals also worked in low-ventilated environments where asbestos fibers could be easily inhaled.
Henthorn filed a lawsuit against Bechtel Corporation, Chicago Bridge & Iron Company and several others in June 2018. In the lawsuit, Henthorn claimed the companies did not warn him working with asbestos products was dangerous. The case has not been settled and Henthorn continues to seek compensation from Bechtel Corporation.
In another case from 2018, Clary Chesson filed a claim against Bechtel Corporation, AMETEK Inc. and Bridgestone/Firestone North America Tire LLC. Chesson developed cancer and respiratory issues as a result of asbestos exposure.
Chesson worked as a sheet metal worker throughout his career and was exposed to asbestos when working with products sold, manufactured or installed by the defendants. Chesson claimed Bechtel Corporation did not display warnings or safety precautions about asbestos at the jobsite. The case is ongoing and the family continues to pursue compensation from Bechtel Corporation and the other defendants.
The company is involved in other pending lawsuits and continues to be named in new asbestos exposure claims. Bechtel Corporation pays claimants using its own funds.