01. History of Asbestos Use
Bell & Gossett Company History of Asbestos Use
- Years in Operation: 1916 – present
- Location: Rye Brook, New York
- Production: Valves, pumps
- Asbestos Trust: No
Bell & Gossett Company was founded in 1916 by W.C. Bell and E.J. Gossett in Chicago, Illinois. The company initially manufactured and sold case hardening compounds, but later expanded its product line to include pumps and heating systems.
Bell & Gossett focused on pioneering the most efficient technology. The company’s innovations resulted in quick growth. In 1918, the company began manufacturing potable water heaters. Bell & Gossett expanded its product line again in 1929 and began selling heating systems and pumps. Bell & Gossett’s new products established the company as a leader in the commercial pump industry.
Throughout the early to mid-1900s, it was common for companies in the pump industry to use asbestos for durability and fire resistance. According to employee handbooks, Bell & Gossett used asbestos as early as 1940.
During World War II, the United States Military commissioned Bell & Gossett to supply pumps, tank track pins and other products. Bell & Gossett’s contributions to the war effort accounted for 60% of its business during WWII. During this period, the company was manufacturing products with asbestos components.
Asbestos was commonly used by the United States Military in vehicles and equipment because the mineral was a cost-effective and durable fireproofing material. Individuals who worked on military bases and shipyards frequently experienced asbestos exposure.
After the war, Bell & Gossett sustained its status as a leader in the pump industry. In 1954, the company opened a training center for HVAC professionals and engineers named the “Little Red Schoolhouse.” Since its start, the facility has been used to train 60,000 workers on the latest advancements in centrifugal pumps and HVAC systems.
ITT Corporation, a large global manufacturing company, acquired Bell & Gossett in 1963. The company operated under ITT Corporation’s water products division, which became the world’s largest supplier of pumps for the dewatering market. Bell & Gossett continued to use asbestos in its products at the time of acquisition.
In the 1980s, federal asbestos laws more strictly regulated asbestos use and Bell & Gossett stopped manufacturing asbestos products. The company’s period of asbestos use caused asbestos exposure among workers in a variety of occupations. As a result, Bell & Gossett has faced a number of asbestos lawsuits and continues to be named in lawsuits today.
Since 2011, Bell & Gossett has operated as a brand under Xylem Inc., a business that grew out of ITT Corporation. Despite prior asbestos use, the company maintains its status as a valve and pump manufacturing industry leader.
02. Asbestos Products
Bell & Gossett Company Asbestos Products
From the 1940s to the 1980s, Bell & Gossett manufactured asbestos-containing heating systems. The insulating and chemical resistant properties made asbestos a valuable additive to Bell & Gossett heating systems. Asbestos was used in pumps, gaskets and valves that experience high temperatures.
When workers maintain or remove asbestos parts in Bell & Gossett products, asbestos fibers are disturbed and become airborne. Fibers may then be inhaled and later cause asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos products manufactured by Bell & Gossett include, but are not limited to:
- Bell & Gossett Hydro Flo Systems (contained asbestos insulation and cement)
- Packing material
03. Occupational Exposure
Bell & Gossett Company and Occupational Exposure
The use of asbestos in Bell & Gossett pumps exposed a variety of workers to airborne asbestos. Individuals who worked directly on the company’s asbestos-containing pumps and heating systems may have experienced exposure during the installation or removal of asbestos parts.
Employees of Bell & Gossett were also subject to asbestos exposure during the manufacturing process. As a result of this exposure, manufacturing workers are at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
04. Asbestos Litigation
Asbestos Litigation Against Bell & Gossett Company
Bell & Gossett has been named in numerous asbestos lawsuits as a result of the company’s asbestos use.
One such case was filed by James Stock after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Stock experienced asbestos exposure while working in a Jenkins Brothers Valve Company factory in the 1970s and 1980s.
Damages awarded include:
- Past pain and suffering: $4.5 million
- Future pain and suffering: $1.5 million
- Loss of present earnings: $66,000
- Loss of future earnings: $400,000
- Present loss of consortium: $50,000
- Future loss of consortium: $450,000
Bell & Gossett and Warren Pumps, Inc. were both found 12% liable. John Crane Company was 14% liable and Jenkins Brother Valve Company was found 50% liable.
Today, Bell & Gossett remains operational and continues to be named in asbestos lawsuits. The company does not have an established asbestos trust fund and compensates victims using its own funds.